‘Meeting the English’ by Kate Clanchy

20140429-170824.jpgThis was the fifth book I read from the long list for the Desmond Elliott Prize – I’m chairing the judges this year – and I enjoyed it hugely.

The compassionate and capable 17-year-old Struan Robertson travels to Hampstead from his bleak Lowland town in answer to an advertisement placed by the family of Philip Prys, a literary behemoth and incorrigible philanderer now laid low by a stroke. The family need a nurse for Philip, but it soon becomes clear that Struan’s presence will be a boon to them all.

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‘Marriage Material’ by Sathnam Sanghera

20140429-141210.jpgThis was the fourth book I read from the long list for the Desmond Elliott Prize – I’m chairing the judges this year – and I couldn’t get enough of this clever, funny and enlightening novel.

When Arjan’s father dies, he leaves his bohemian London milieu to help his mother run the family’s convenience store in Wolverhampton. What begins as a few days’ visit turns into a full-blown crisis of identity that sees Arjan strung out between his Punjabi roots and his London life, as embodied in the relationship with his longsuffering fiancée, Freya.

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Sedition by Katharine Grant

20140424-163414.jpgThis was the third book I read from the long list for the Desmond Elliott Prize. (I’m chairing the judges this year). What an eclectic and intriguing list it is proving to be.

Set in a licentious coffee house London where cash is still king even as Europe is swept by revolution, ‘Sedition’ is one of the most delightfully contrary novels I have met.

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The Letter Bearer by Robert Allison

20140412-183939.jpgThis was the second book I read from the long list of the Desmond Elliott Prize. (I’m chairing the judges this year).

An excellent and elegant novel written with patience and authority, Robert Allison’s debut takes the reader to the pitiless desert, in which man’s nature finds neither ordered society to disguise it, nor compassion to console it.

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The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

20140408-100049.jpgIt was hard to choose what to read first from the Desmond Elliott Prize long list. This tremendous novel arrived under-hyped, modestly-titled and soberly jacketed, allowing the lucky reader to discover much more than was claimed for it.

Set in an unfinished outskirt of an unnamed town, arguably the real action takes place in some metaphysical place halfway between here and the beyond; a limbo in which a rich ensemble cast struggles to break an eternal cycle of childhood trauma visited upon the next generation.

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Halfway

I’m about halfway with the new story, I think. Very absorbed in it, which is why I’ve been quiet recently – apologies for that. Enjoying the writing more than I have for a long time, and hope to have a good novel to offer you. First 60,000 words have taken 70 days, which seems to be this book’s tempo. I should think I’ll be finished by Christmas. Thank you all very much for your patience and kind words in the meantime. I’m lucky to have such likeable readers.