“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
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...
Runaways and free spirits

Runaways and free spirits

“Every landscape needs a figure in it, perhaps especially a figure that is only intermittently visible, that is mysterious and alert,” observes a gardener in Jane Smiley’s The Strays of Paris who spies a beautiful racehorse roaming freely in the middle of the French capital. The racehorse is Paras (short...
Neema Shah: A place called home

Neema Shah: A place called home

If you’re non-white living in a majority white place or indeed a visible or identifiable ‘foreigner’ in a land, the chances are you will have at some point been told to “go back to your own country”. Especially in 1970s Britain. The people who regularly shouted this none-too-friendly command would...
Raven Leilani: In the air tonight

Raven Leilani: In the air tonight

Luster is an original, darkly funny debut about an interracial love triangle, by a new voice with the power to turn modern manners upside down and inside out.  Edie is having online sex with Eric, a man she met on a dating app who messages her with impeccable punctuation –...
Lucy Jago: Making a stink

Lucy Jago: Making a stink

Lucy Jago’s A Net for Small Fishes is a captivating story of female friendship and solidarity amid a scandal that rocked the court of James I. It is narrated by 30-something Anne Turner, a doctor’s wife and mother of six with a talent for fashion and a patent for saffron...
All the love in the world

All the love in the world

“It is nice when two people come together in the universe,” Huma Qureshi remembers telling her young son in the opening pages of How We Met. He promptly asks how she and his dad Richard came to be together, and so begins Huma’s story of her quest for married love....
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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...
Ten things about writing

Ten things about writing

Any writer is prey to the temptation to hand out writing advice at the least provocation, but I try to refrain most of the time. There is sufficient writing and publishing advice on the internet to equal even the cat photos and pornography. But here are ten things I believe about writing: things I tell...
Guillermo del Toro: Monster maker

Guillermo del Toro: Monster maker

Alongside compatriots Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Carlos Reygadas, Guillermo del Toro emerged as one of the most visible and distinctive artists in modern Mexican cinema. A major contributor to the critical and commercial renaissance cinema from Mexico enjoyed on an international scale, the universal acclaim generated by Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) (which won a...
The Italian Plutarch

The Italian Plutarch

The Renaissance is so much more than the sum of its parts. Not only because of the tremendous change that it brought, as many have argued, to history, art, knowledge, human experience and science, to the perception and very substance of our world, but especially for the even more momentous continuity which, according to color...
Wilde

Wilde

Inside the Dublin guesthouse, over a breakfast of peppery scrambled eggs, I sat watching the young couple below on the street. They stood on the opposite side of the road, next to the bus stop’s thin yellow pole, bundled up in woollen accessories and thick, dark jackets. They pressed their bodies together, their arms clasping...
Lagoon

Lagoon

I can’t stop taking pictures of the big ships; I’m doing it this afternoon with Teresa, just as I did that day at the end of July in 2013. I was sitting in the usual bar, on the Riva dei Sette Martiri, where you barely even notice the passage of the cruise ships anymore. They...
Why I write

Why I write

Why do I write? I often ask myself this question. Bottom line is, tough and demoralising as producing books always is, with the countless rewrites and stinging rejections, it is actually much more painful not writing. I always say anyone who can give up writing, does. It’s deep in my soul. I have two lines...
Fifty per cent of Borges

Fifty per cent of Borges

“For nearly the past three years, I have been lucky to have my own translator by my side,” Jorge Luis Borges wrote in 1970, “and together we are bringing out some ten or twelve volumes of my work in English, a language I am unworthy to handle, a language I often wish had been my...
On the fly

On the fly

Elizabeth Macneal’s second novel Circus of Wonders, set in the latter part of the 19th century, tells the story of a young girl named Nell from a seaside town in southern England whose father sells her to a travelling circus. Trained as an aerialist, and dubbed ‘leopard girl’ because of the birthmarks that speckle her...