All posts by Kate Nash

An artist became an activist – Interview with Gavin Weston

We Talk Women interview our very own, Gavin Weston.Gavin Weston

Gavin Weston is the author of Harmattan – set in Niger, West Africa – which chronicles the early years of Haoua, a child bride growing up in the fictional village of Wadata. Weston was a volunteer with the American NGO Africare in the eighties and, since 2011, has been an ambassador for FORWARD, a London-based NGO campaigning to end child marriage and FGM. He is a practising visual artist, a lecturer and a former Writer-in-Residence at one of Northern Ireland’s top security prisons.

For the full Q&A interview, please click here.

Finding the human in the monster

Twan

The Straits Times had the enormous pleasure of interviewing our very own author, Tan Twan Eng.

Finding the human in the monster, published September 18th by Lee Jian Xuan, The Straits Times.

Whether he is writing at his desk or teaching in class, the award- winning Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng is always in a neatly pressed suit, with a matching tie to boot.

Of his attire, the 44-year-old tells The Sunday Times: “I’m more comfortable in this. To me, being a writer is a job and you treat it with respect.

“To get into the mindset of writing, I have to dress the part.”

Tan, who was born in Penang and worked as an intellectual property lawyer before becoming a novelist, says his professional background gave him a leg-up in the literary world.

He says: “The years I worked at a law firm taught me how to deal with clients professionally, reply to e-mail on time and gave me discipline. One reason that my agent signed me is because of how professional my submission letter and CV looked.”

He wrote part of his first novel Gift Of Rain while studying for a master’s in shipping law (“It was just a bull**** reason to take two years off work”) in Cape Town, South Africa. He now splits his time mainly between South Africa and Malaysia.

To read the full article please click here.

Tan Twan Eng – BBC World Service Interview

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 11.04.41

A special one-off interview with Tan Twan Eng is now live on the BBC website.

This month we’re in The Book Lounge Bookshop in Cape Town, South Africa and talking to the Malaysian novelist Tan Twan Eng about his Man Asian Literary Prize-winning novel, The Garden of Evening Mists.

This haunting tale, set in the jungles of Malaya during and after World War II, centres on Yun Ling, the sole survivor of a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in which her sister perished.

Driven by the desire to honour her sister’s memory through the creation of a lush and sensuous garden Yun Ling falls into a relationship with the enigmatic Japanese gardener Aritomo and begins a journey into her past, inextricably linked with the secrets of her troubled country’s history.’

(Picture: Tan Twan Eng. Credit: Lloyd Smith.)

Please Click Here for the full 50 minute interview.

The Anatomist’s Dream: longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016

12829421_1165798966777742_973655231929934097_oThe beautiful novel by Clio Gray was recently longlisted for the prestigious Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. The wonderful blog, Chronic Bibliophilia, wrote a lovely review of The Anatomist’s Dream describing Clio’s superb use of both language and style, and her skill at creating the most intriguing and colourful characters:

‘Again and again, Gray’s characters unwittingly breach boundaries, but these breaches are a calculated and deliberate trope through which Gray manipulates her story and her audience with masterful ease.’

‘Philbert, along with the reader, is urged to consider the impact of small lives and small actions. I expect Clio Gray’s action, and the lives she has created in “The Anatomist’s Dream”, to cause ripples in the literary world for years to come.’

To read the full review please click here, or to purchase your copy please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Centenary News review for Cartographer

Cartographer

CentenaryNews.com has been launched to provide news and information about the 2014-2018 First World War Centenary.

It contains news items, videos, details of events, educational resources, and links to articles and blogs. The site also includes a summary of organisations who are involved with the study of the First World War, or who are planning Centenary events.

Recently Eleanor Baggley, Centenary News Books Editor, gave a glowing review of our incredibly popular novel, The Cartographer of No Man’s Land. Here’s a little taster of what Eleanor wrote about this thought-provoking novel:

‘As we approached the Centenary there was a flurry of new historical fiction based on World War One. It’s something we all expected – the subject, after all, is so rich and lends itself so easily to fiction. I’ve read some novels which have successfully captured the mood of the period and others which never quite grasped it. The Cartographer of No Man’s Land sits comfortably in that first group. P.S. Duffy has an extraordinary sense of the time and of the myriad ways men, women and children dealt with war. This, combined with a compelling story, make The Cartographer of No Man’s Land a novel worth reading.

‘For something slightly different or an alternative way of thinking about the soldier/civilian experience, I would highly recommend this novel. Not only is it a revealing examination of the transformative effect of war, it is also a beautifully written novel.’

To read the full article please visit the Centenary News website here.

Bloom Q&A with our very own P.S. Duffy

P.S. DuffyBloom is a literary site devoted to highlighting, profiling, reviewing, and interviewing authors whose first major work was published when they were age 40 or older.  Bloom is also a community of artists and readers who believe that “late” is a relative term, not an absolute one, and who are interested in bringing to attention a wide variety of artistic paths — challenging any narrow, prevailing ideas about the pacing and timing of creative fruition.  If someone is labeled a “late bloomer”, the question Bloom poses is, “Late” according to whom?

Freshly back from the Jersey Shore, debut novelist P.S. Duffy talks about writing her first book at age 10 although she didn’t publish her first novel until she was 65, her inability to ever return to her birth country of China, and how a stranger’s insistence that a group of men in khaki uniforms were waiting for her to tell their Great War story became her illuminating, haunting The Cartographer of No Man’s Land.

To read the full interview and Q&A please click on the link here.

The Garden of Evening Mists visits The Queen’s Gallery

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 11.18.00A special book group event will be held at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace on Tuesday 15th September 2015

Spend an evening with author Lynda Waterhouse for a discussion of art and literature inspired by Tan Twan Eng’s atmospheric novel The Garden of Evening Mists. The novel tells a story of one woman’s struggle to create a Japanese garden in the beautiful highlands of Malaya.

This book club will include a special exhibition tour of Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden by curator Sally Goodsir and a complimentary glass of wine.

For more details of the event, and to book your ticket, please click on the link here.

An extract from ‘Mistress of the Court’

1712

CHAPTER ONE

Beak Street, London

Pain cracked across the back of Henrietta’s skull, filling her vision with white light. As her body smacked against the floor, her skirts ripped. She spluttered and tried to roll over, but Charles planted his boot in the small of her back. ‘Give it to me, bitch!’

Noise fragmented into shards. A cry soared, cutting through her husband’s voice. It was Henry – poor boy. He would be so afraid.

‘What?’ she gasped. ‘What do you want now?’

‘You know what!’

Money. Money for the bottle, money for the faro table, money for his whores. Money he never earned. A pitiful amount of interest on her dowry, intended for her sole use.

Her hand flailed across the floor, trying to find purchase. Only mouse-droppings met her fingertips. ‘I have none.’

‘You do!’ His breath hit her ear, stinking of tobacco and alcohol.

‘You feed the child, don’t you?’

Resentment boiled up inside her but she could not let it show. Submission was the only safe path. She had tried the other way more than once – and barely escaped with her life.

‘Henry!’ she called out to her son. ‘Tell Papa when we last had something to eat. It wasn’t today, was it?’ she prompted. ‘Nor yesterday . . . ’

Charles’s boot pressed down, choking the breath from her. Her ribs mashed into the floor. With no fat to cushion them, they threatened to burst through her wasted skin. ‘What? Starving my son?’

The pressure on her back lifted for an instant before Charles stamped upon her shoulder blades. Vision flickered. Henrietta tasted vomit in her mouth and suddenly it was all around her, sticking to her cheeks. Her consciousness retreated, fleeing the squalor and pain. Hanover. She had to think of Hanover: the sparkling court, the fine dresses. Fountains that danced in the sunlight. It was her only hope of escape.

‘For God’s sake, woman! Look at the state of you.’ Charles spat on her prone form. ‘I won’t have this mess in my house. Get it cleaned up by the time I return.’

‘Yes, Charles.’

He slammed the door, shaking the thin walls and rattling the windows in their frames. Henrietta waited a few moments, testing the silence against his return. Nothing. The void was like the sound of angel wings.

She struggled up and leant one arm against the wall. Another chip, another piece of torn wallpaper. At least it wasn’t a bloodstain this time. She grabbed a rag from the chair and wiped her face. Her woollen gown was past repair; soiled, torn and shiny at the seams. The frayed linen around her elbows caught up dust and dead flies. She would have to go on wearing it: the humiliating rag that marked every step she had fallen from her place as Miss Hobart of Blickling Hall. It was the only piece of clothing she owned. A whimper broke the bruised silence. Henrietta looked up from her gown to see Henry, watching her. His eyes brimmed with tears.

‘Henry. Henry, it’s all right. Look, Mama isn’t hurt!’ She spread her arms and moved to embrace him, but he dodged out of the way. She couldn’t blame him. She was a frightening figure, covered in scratches and vomit. She wished she could light a fire, give him something sweet to take the edge off the shock. But she had nothing – nothing except her love. And it wasn’t enough.

‘Mama has a plan,’ she told him. ‘A plan to get you food and an education. You’d like to go to school, wouldn’t you?’

He didn’t answer.

She knelt softly and put her head level with his mop of dirty hair. ‘I’m going to tell you a story,’ she crooned. ‘A story of a sad old queen called Anne who was very, very ill. Winter drew near and her days fell away like autumn leaves. She wished and wished for a child to take her throne, but it didn’t come.’ Henrietta had a vivid memory of her own mother, putting her to bed with a fairy-tale. She swallowed. ‘But then, guess what happened? The queen found a magical place, across the narrow sea. A place where there were generations of princes and princesses, just waiting to keep her country safe.’

Still on her knees, she shuffled over to the bed. As she pushed the frame, straw burst from the mattress and fluttered down on her head. ‘Now, your Papa’s name is a key to that magical place. You only have to say Howard and the doors will open. We need to go there and serve the princes and princesses. Then, when they come to England to take their throne, Mama and Papa will be right there beside them.’ Henrietta rapped the floorboards with her knuckles.

One returned a deep, hollow sound.

‘But how do you get to the magic place?’ Henry’s voice was a tiny thread. ‘How do you cross the sea?’

Henrietta laid a finger on her lips. ‘It’s a secret. You mustn’t tell Papa.’ Her nails closed around a loose piece of wood and wriggled it free. ‘But at night, the fairies come and . . . ’

Breath left her in a rush of anguish. No. It cannot be. Her careful hoard, the stash she had starved for, was gone. A yawning gap met her frantic gaze, her groping fingers.

Somewhere out there, she knew, Charles would be sitting on a battered stool, drinking her dreams into oblivion.

© Laura Purcell

An extract from ‘The Anatomist’s Dream’

1

Debut

‘It’s a taupe,’ announced the doctor, poking at the lump with a scratchy yellow finger, ‘a French tumour they call it, though couldn’t rightly tell you why. Most unusual – got a bit of hair growing on it too, see here?’

Several thin strands grew, wet-wisped, from a lump the size and shape of a duck’s egg at the bottom of the baby’s head.

‘Might kill him,’ the doctor carried on with scientific stoicism. ‘But probably not, most likely grow a-pace with the rest of him.

My goodness though, he does rather resemble the back end of a baboon, don’t you think?’ He winked at Frau Kranz, who had never seen a baboon let alone its back end, but understood well enough what he meant.

Schweigen Sie!’ she hissed, ‘be quiet, sir,’ and nodded her head at Shminiak, who had slumped into a stupor by the empty fire, bowing his head, wondering how much more brandy it would take to make everything go away. He’d already clapped his hands about his ears to shut out the baby’s awful squalling, moaning quietly: ‘For God’s sake, make it stop, make it stop, for God’s sake . . .’

Frau Kranz, who was the most patient of women, could put it off no longer and chivvied the child up carefully from the bassinet and carried him over to the bed, clamping him onto his mother’s sweaty breast. Nelke, exhausted as she was, woke abruptly at the application and tried to swat the intruder weakly away. She refused to believe this monstrosity was of her flesh, that she had given birth at all, the pain of labour nothing more than a terrible nightmare, a twilight dream. But it was no dream, not for Nelke, Shminiak, nor the child who was oblivious of the outside world – a world that seemed peaceful on the surface, there in Staßburg as elsewhere, but the jigsaw puzzle of Europe was beginning to crack along its edges, breaking up from within, harried from without, each piece tugging itself away from the other, the Holy Roman Empire snuffed out years before by Napoleon, a shaky German Confederation created to fill the void. There was civil war in Iberia, and every Italian state clawed at the throats of its neighbours, and soon the entire continent would be utterly fragmented, Metternich packing the prison fortress at Spielburg in Bohemia, its stones reverberating with the cries of the spies and subversives he’d locked inside its walls; but no matter how many he crammed in there seemed an inexhaustible supply, and the secret operatives of princes, kings and Junkers were soon running the country up and down as freely and frequently as the tides run up and down the sands of coastlines the world over. Conspiracy and subterfuge would become bywords for those coming years through which that child of Nelke and Shminiak would grow up, and the slump of 1844 a few years later would scuttle ships and rip the Guilds from nape to knee; potato blight and famine would squeeze the stomachs of labourers and peasants across the land; there would be riots in Aachen and Bavaria, Berlin and Saxony; the Silesian silk workers would break their looms and tools; the Slavs and Poles and Magyars rise up against their masters; the railways would crash and the rivers stutter to a stop with the piling up of the dead.

But all that was yet to come and, as Philbert bullied his way out of Nelke’s womb, there was no inkling of the terrible and significant part he would play in these events, no thoughts at all thrumming around inside his monstrous head. Later in his life he would meet people who claimed to understand the language of the wind as it whispered through the trees, who saw omens in the entrails pulled from still-warm lambs, interpreted the future by studying the murfles and mottlements that grew upon men’s skin. Perhaps if they’d been there at the very start, attendant at Philbert’s birth, they might have foreseen what would happen, maybe had the nous to stop it before it all kicked off. But only Frau Kranz was there with a screaming mother, a drink-sodden father, and the doctor scratching his yellow fingernail on Philbert’s taupe.

© Clio Gray