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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 much about the First World War, not least the horrendous lice problem they had to contend with.

Last week we went 'up town' to the National to watch Sean O'Casey's 1926 classic, The Plough and the Stars. We were in the second row, which I wasn't sure was a good thing or not. An Irish cousin of mine - also an avid theatre-goer - had also been a couple of weeks before and had been placed in the first row. But that close up you could see the expressions on each face. The performances were nothing short of stunning, particularly Mrs Burgess (God save the King!) played by Justine Mitchell - she was right in-the-moment within the Easter Rising and her astonishing mannerisms reminded me of the brilliant Fiona Shaw, (T.S. Eliot expert - see her performing the Wasteland on the ipad app!). The bartender, Eoin Slattery, (speakeasy, now!) also stood out, as did Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as The Young Covey, Fluther by Stephen Kennedy, and Grainne Keenan as the prostitute, Rosie Redmond. My husband said he would like to go again. I wouldn't mind myself, just to drink in the dialogue again; Sean O'Casey equals brilliance.

Next on the theatre list, David Hare's The Red Barn, and Amadeus - both at the National - and a recent booking is The Good Canary, at the Rose Theatre in Kingston. I admire John Malkovich so much, and he was on Jonathan Ross the other night where this play, his UK directorial debut, was plugged. No empty diaries here for winter. Which reminds me. My own play. Agh.

Now for the Booker Shortlist, announced this very morning: 

The Sellout - Paul Beatty
Hot Milk - Deborah Levy
His Bloody Project - Graeme Macrae Burnet
Eileen - Ottessa Moshfegh
All That Man Is - David Szalay
Do Not Say We Have Nothing - Madeleine Thien

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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.

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