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Life story marked by a cruel act of betrayal

PUBLISHED: 12:10 10 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:56 07 September 2010

HIGHGATE writer Lynn Barber will be immortalised on screen in a new film adaptation of her memoir about love and deception at an early age. Scripted by author Nick Hornby, the BBC film An Education will star Emma Thompson and Peter Sarsgaard

Meg Jorsh

HIGHGATE writer Lynn Barber will be immortalised on screen in a new film adaptation of her memoir about love and deception at an early age.

Scripted by author Nick Hornby, the BBC film An Education will star Emma Thompson and Peter Sarsgaard, with Carey Mulligan as the young Barber.

Scenes have already been filmed at Highgate mansion Witanhurst, best known as the setting for TV's Fame Academy, with further shoots planned around London and in Paris.

Seduced and deceived at 16 by a conman in his 30s, Barber, of Whitehall Park, had always intended to tell her story. But it took the diagnosis of husband David with terminal myelofibrosis to spur her into action.

"I always thought I had a million years to live, and then I thought, 'Gosh, it's possible to die.' I decided I'd better write it a bit quickly," she said.

A respected journalist and author, the 63-year-old is apprehensive about being portrayed on screen. "It's a bit odd, I suppose," she said. "The idea that it would be made into a film has been chugging along for such a long time I'd almost forgotten about it. I'm quite shocked that it's now all happening."

Betrayal at an early age had a lasting effect on her personality. "It made me suspicious of people, in that it made me believe that people are capable of big untruths," she said.

"It's not something I'm particularly glad to have learned. In a way I was better off when I was more innocent."

With both her parents still alive, she admits An Education may make uncomfortable viewing. "I don't want to upset them. It's not an episode that they're very happy to remember."

Nonetheless, the story was an easy one to write. "It just seemed quite odd to me in retrospect, more a strange series of events than a painful episode. I don't think I'd recognise myself at 16."

In spite of the personal subject matter, she is confident the film won't reveal too much. A notoriously harsh interviewer, she said: "It's one of the unfairnesses that I'm always very happy to ask people incredibly nosy questions and yet quite unwilling to answer them myself."

A self-confessed "poor judge of acting", she felt unable to comment on Mulligan's lead role. "I was a bit shocked to read that she's actually 22 or something, when she's supposed to be 16. It's quite important. It's on the brink of paedophilia, so she needs to be young."

Nonetheless, she is impressed with Hornby's contribution to the script. "Nick has elaborated the character of my father into something which actually is like him.

"I thought, 'Hang on, he's never met my father. How does he do that?'"

The film is due to be aired in 2009.

editorial@hamhigh.co.uk

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