"I expect you’ll be becoming a schoolmaster, sir. That’s what most of the gentlemen does, sir, that gets sent down for indecent behaviour.” Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall
Posts tagged "UK"
A memory of memory

A memory of memory

Memory is our own unreliable narrator. It forgets things that matter and recalls other events that never happened. It can slip away like receding mist or haunt us in a perennial nightmare. To the extent that they track selves through time, all novels are about memory. But some are more concerned with the notion than...
Mohsin Hamid: Moving on

Mohsin Hamid: Moving on

Mohsin Hamid’s latest novel Exit West imagines a world in which war refugees and economic migrants have the chance to break for safety by passing through supernatural black doors that serve as wormholes to wealthier countries. It’s a magical conceit that fast-forwards the likely exoduses of the coming decades, and intensifies the human dramas of...
Laura McVeigh: Journeys of the mind

Laura McVeigh: Journeys of the mind

Laura McVeigh’s debut novel Under the Almond Tree is a vibrant and tender modern fable of a young life blighted by war. Fifteen–year-old Samar is displaced from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and narrates her story from aboard the Trans-Siberian Express as it trundles east and west between Moscow and Vladivostok. With family and memories in tow, as...
The shovelist

The shovelist

Guillaume Morin stood at his kitchen window, peering through the falling snow. Across the street, two men in matching brown leather jackets were unloading boxes from a metallic blue Cadillac and lugging them into Suzanne Sillery’s old place. “Stop staring! It’s not proper.” Guillaume looked at his wife. She was seated at the kitchen table,...
Scenes from a Troubles childhood

Scenes from a Troubles childhood

“Where do you get your ideas?” Or, to paraphrase, “You look like a pretty normal person to me, so where did all that come from?” It’s the baseline question, the one we’ve all been asked. Often, the questioner is really asking something more specific: “How much of your book is written from life?” or “Did...
Yukio Mishima: 'Swaddling Clothes'

Yukio Mishima: ‘Swaddling Clothes’

‘Swaddling Clothes’ by Yukio Mishima has haunted me ever since I encountered it twenty years ago when I was a literature student at UCLA. It is a fascinating character study of Toshiko, a woman consumed by her fear of inescapable fate – a subject that fascinates me. Over the years, the character of Toshiko has...
Chris Cleave: Across the divide

Chris Cleave: Across the divide

Chris Cleave’s latest novel, Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, is a London-set examination of the real impact of the Second World War, centring on an 18-year-old schoolteacher called Mary North. Cleave and I have tea one afternoon in Piccadilly to discuss it. There’s a reason why we’re drinking tea and not, say, vermouth. Cleave doesn’t drink....
Out there

Out there

The Doll Funeral began as an image of a young girl running out from the back door into an unkempt garden. In my mind it’s as if there is a camera tracking behind her. The camera follows her out into the garden where she jumps off the step, runs through the overgrown grasses and begins...
Diamond discoveries

Diamond discoveries

Not long after I began writing my Aviary Gate series of historical novels, I came across of portrait of Paul Pindar. It shows a narrow-faced, scholarly-looking man in his middle years. He wears a suit of sober merchant’s black, a falling collar of simple but exceedingly expensive white lace at his neck. The portrait is...
An unfailing life

An unfailing life

On 29 April 1937 Virginia Woolf read one of her texts on the radio, the only recording of her voice known to have survived from a total of three BBC radio broadcasts. This highly introspective essay on the craftsmanship of writing was entitled ‘Words Fail Me’; four years later, almost to the day, Woolf would...