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Ok, so it's been a little while since my last post. I tried to get into Anne Pratchett's Orange short listed title, A State of Wonder, but gave up ten pages in. Or about ten pages. It just felt sooo dry. So this month I'm reading William Boyd's Waiting for Sunrise and I am enjoying it. I've also been busy thinking about my Mary Burns book. I've now taken her strand from the book, which sits alongside a contemporary alter ego, and am focused on making it richer, and more 'Victorian', which will contrast against the sparser prose style of the contemporary strand. And will, I hope, bring Mary more to life. That means more multi-clausal sentences, which can work, particularly when describing a landscape of packed images. Or satirising. We shall see. I want to do her justice. And then, once I've paid more attention to it, and reconsidered its position, physically, alongside or alternating with the contemporary strand, I shall send it back to Verso for their thoughts. As ever most of my reading matter had been of the social/political type. Yesterday's Observer ran a brilliant, withering editorial of Osborne's gross mishandling - and misunderstanding - of the UK economy. Then David Cameron is lecturing the Greek people on the EU situation, which is a bit bloody rich. Why on earth would they listen to him? Arrogance and entitlement of voice for voice's sake can be a tedious thing. Ed Balls put out a much healthier comment this morning, saying that the matter - the decision on whether to stay in or pull out of the EU is up to Greece.
I bought a new bike this weekend - a cream Trek Allant, with a wicker basket on the front. It's much faster than my previous Trek Navigator - and lighter. I'm lightening up a fair bit lately. I've even splurged out on some lighter additions to my wardrobe. I can get stuck in a rut until I suddenly realise that the vast proportion of my clothes are dark and say little. I worry about spending money you see - think I should be saving all disposable income for a future deposit on a flat. But that seems impossible. So, I tell myself, spend a bit of money on clothes - update the bike - and maybe the next job will enable me to save enough to actually make a difference - save enough to at least make me feel that a deposit is somehow possible! One cannot just save, whilst living in cold, less than desirable rented rooms - it brings on despair too often. It's ridiculous, of course, that anyone working full time shouldn't have a suitable home. But that is the south for you. There you are. A little update. I hope to have a more bookish post soon.


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Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

My PhD critical paper

I thought I'd upload the critical element of my PhD thesis. Hopefully, for those who are interested enough to read it, it will make sense despite the references to my creative work, which I can't upload as I'm seeking publication. And besides, at 68,000 words...

I'm also going to tweak section one of this three section critical paper with a view to journal publication because of the academic interest in the claims I make of Mary.

-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-

And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston Universi…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…