“When you are a latecomer, outsider, immigrant, exile, there are fractures in your life that you can’t heal… I have a lot of respect for people that have stayed behind and have to deal with the wounds every day.” Elif Shafak
Ink blots in the trunk

Ink blots in the trunk

Every aspiring writer is familiar with the concept of the ‘trunk novel’. This is the novel that doesn’t make it to the bookshelf, but instead gets tucked into a bottom desk drawer or old USB drive after refusing to do what its writer wants it to do. Often it’s the...
Magpies

Magpies

The girl tenses when her mother calls her name like that. She clings to the racks; sleeves brushing against her cheek. She crosses the store. Normally, her mother doesn’t like to be overt; only gentle movements when she’s found what she wants. Sometimes the girl won’t even notice. Today, though,...
Elif Shafak: Time to reconnect

Elif Shafak: Time to reconnect

Elif Shafak’s richly evocative, elegantly crafted novel The Island of Missing Trees transports readers between 1970s Cyprus and 21st–century London in a cross-generational saga of passion, trauma, memory and renewal. Greek Cypriot Kostas and Turkish Cypriot Defne fall in love as teenagers in the divided city of Nicosia in 1974,...
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...
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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...
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 her existence. After her mother...
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...
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 and offered something half-useful.” It’s...
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...