“When we are most in need of love, we tend to act in ways that are least likely to attract it… people are generally intolerable at exactly the same moment as they most need to have grace extended to them.” Jenn Ashworth
Tessa McWatt: A place in the world

Tessa McWatt: A place in the world

Tessa McWatt’s The Snow Line throws together four strangers at a wedding in the Indian Himalayan foothills. Twenty-five-year-old Reema is a classical singer born in India but raised as a Londoner, who has travelled without her Scottish boyfriend. Having recently discovered she is pregnant, she is facing a life-shifting decision...
Samira Sedira: The makings of a murder

Samira Sedira: The makings of a murder

French-Algerian author and actress Samira Sedira’s People Like Them, her first novel to be translated into English, is a fictional retelling of a real-life multiple murder in a mountain village in Haute-Savoie, in which a recently arrived wealthy black property developer, his white wife and their three young children were...
Chibundu Onuzo: Ancestry and identity

Chibundu Onuzo: Ancestry and identity

Chibundu Onuzo’s latest novel Sankofa is an entertaining and eye-opening story of a woman in search of her roots. Anna Bain is a mixed-race woman of 48 who grew up in London with her Welsh mother Bronwen, knowing little about her African father who in turn has no idea of...
On ghosts and grace

On ghosts and grace

At the outset of our email chat about her new novel Ghosted, when I tell her how deeply I connected with her story, Jenn Ashworth accepts my heartfelt praise with the comment: “It’s all I want, really, when people read my books – just to feel like they’ve been acknowledged...
Staying in, not slowing down

Staying in, not slowing down

On the release of Both of You, her twenty-first novel in as many years, the author of the Number 1 bestselling Lies Lies Lies and Just My Luck reflects on keeping going during lockdown, some of her literary influences and heroes, and the routine and discipline that always underpin the creative process....
Louise Kennedy: Marks on the ground

Louise Kennedy: Marks on the ground

Shortlisted for the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award in both 2019 and 2020, and the recipient of many earlier awards, Louise Kennedy has become a leading light in Irish storytelling. Having worked mostly as a chef for thirty years, she began writing at the age of 47 in 2014,...
Brenda Navarro: Beyond motherhood

Brenda Navarro: Beyond motherhood

Brenda Navarro’s evocative and powerful novel Empty Houses explores the pain of losing a child, the social impositions of motherhood, and the plight of Mexico’s disappeared and economically disadvantaged. It opens with the voice of a distraught mother whose autistic three-year-old boy Daniel is snatched away from her in a...
Karla Neblett: Angry love

Karla Neblett: Angry love

Karla Neblett’s hugely impressive debut novel King of Rabbits is a vividly realised story about a resourceful, sensitive and imaginative boy from a mixed-race, blended family on a Somerset council estate. Kai’s mum is transitioning from heavy drinking to addiction to crack cocaine, which she is led into by his...
Emma Stonex: Illuminating the dark

Emma Stonex: Illuminating the dark

In 1900, three lighthouse keepers on a Hebridean island disappeared without a trace. The theories surrounding the bizarre and enduring mystery inspired Emma Stonex to reimagine their story with a fictional spin. The Lamplighters is a story of three lighthousemen and the women in their lives, told from the differing...
Lisa Harding: Lost lives found

Lisa Harding: Lost lives found

Sonya, Tommy, Herbie and Marmie. These four characters have embedded themselves into my psyche. The last time I cared so deeply about the fate of fictional creations was with Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. Where Yanagihara’s doorstopper spanned decades in the lives of four men, Lisa Harding’s blisteringly brilliant novel...
Fiction and climate change

Fiction and climate change

Our dog used to have minor health issues, and so we often had to come up with inventive ways of giving her pills. Many a morning I had a soggy pill spat out in my face, Lumina the dog with her beady eye daring me to try that again. It...
Latest entries
Queer families

Queer families

Is blood thicker than water? Or is family chosen, acquired throughout our lives? Ask me in the immediate aftermath of a family Christmas, and I’ll say definitely, definitely it’s not about genetics – no ties but what we make! But sit me down with my sister in the peace of her kitchen for a cup...
Secrets and lies, red Welshmen and words of vagrant wisdom

Secrets and lies, red Welshmen and words of vagrant wisdom

“All families develop a special language, words and references no outsider can understand. My family’s special language was Rotwelsch.” Thus begins Martin Puchner’s complex, compelling, if at times ambivalent exploration of a family and a language, or in point of fact of Language (and perhaps Family) capitalised. Of language as an institution, as a structure...
A collector's thing

A collector’s thing

Nicholas Royle’s White Spines: Confessions of a Book Collector reflects on the author’s passion for Picador’s fiction and non-fiction publishing from the 1970s to the end of the 1990s. It explores the books themselves, the bookshops and charity shops he gathers them from, and the way a unique collection grew and became a literary obsession....
Books as a Covid passport

Books as a Covid passport

Earlier this year, my novel The Butchers won the 2021 RSL Ondaatje Prize, awarded to the book which best evokes ‘the spirit of a place’. The prize seems like a lovely thing at the best of times – I am a big believer in the transportive power of books – but this year it felt...
Grief and transformation

Grief and transformation

My debut novel This Shining Life is a meditation on grief. It follows a family on their journey through bereavement after the death of Rich, a beloved father, son, husband and friend. When I first invented his character I saw him in a garden at dawn with the sky pale and peachy behind him. He...
Rich

Rich

He woke up at dawn and shuffled to the edge of the bed. Ruth did not stir. She always slept deeply at this time, when there was a chill in the air and the sky was dusky over the river. Rich, though, was at his most wakeful. He rummaged in the heap of clothes on...
New writers for the new normal

New writers for the new normal

Kei Miller’s list of Emerging Writers of an Emerging World for the 2021 International Literature Showcase fizzes with hope, like an old-timey musical. Spring is bustin’ out all over, and it’s named Caleb Azumeh Nelson, Daisy Lafarge, Gail McConnell, Helen McClory, Ingrid Persaud, Jarred McGinnis, Mícheál McCann, Rachel Long, Sairish Hussain and Steven Lovatt. There is something for everyone: six novels, three volumes...
Spilling over

Spilling over

Alix O’Neil’s memoir The Troubles With Us is full of tales of growing up among the sectarian divisions of Northern Ireland in the 80s and 90s. Both hilarious and frightening, it’s a brilliant insight into living in a war zone and also having to deal with family secrets. She tells us about her love of...
Shades of remembering

Shades of remembering

The Good Neighbours by Nina Allan (riverrun, 10 June) is set on the Isle of Bute, a not too remote island near Glasgow. Cath, who is from the island but living in the big city, is a freelance photographer who takes pictures of murder houses for a new project. This takes her back to where she...
Reading Ulysses

Reading Ulysses

When I was 22, I spent the month of June travelling around the Balkans by myself. I was trying to heal a broken heart, having been unexpectedly dumped by a boyfriend. Night after night, I ate supper alone in a taverna with just my book for company. The book in question was not only one...