Madeline Miller won the Orange Prize for fiction with ‘The Song of Achilles’, one of my favourites of the shortlist. The ancient story of heroism, gods and half gods, love, suspicion and the abduction of Helen to Troy is retold by Miller in a way that shows her understanding of and sympathy with the main protagonists Achilles and his lover friend Patroclus and as someone with incredible mastery of writing and language. I already reviewed this book (see previous post) and wonder how she will be able to follow this up with another novel, expectations will be so high.
This was exactly the question asked of JN Watson at the session organised by the Norwich Writers’ Centre as part of the Norwich Summer Reads events. Wilson appeared undaunted and said his next book would be quite different. I reviewed his book ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ back in January and was thrilled that he was going to talk about it in Norwich, just round the corner really from where I live. He’s such a likeable person, and talks fondly of the main character Christine who has lost her memory, and also about his reason for using initials rather than his first name because he did not want to give away that he is a male, writing from a female perspective. It is interesting that this still needs thinking about – as someone in the audience said ‘I did not know whether you were male or female and actually expected you to be a female’. He’s shown that it is perfectly possible to write from the perspective of another gender, in the same way that an author might write from the perspective of a serial killer (‘much more difficult’, he said) or a horse trainer (you would have to research that would not you?).
Another recent winner is Norwich City, which will be Unesco’s first City of Literature! I live very nearby so can enjoy all that will entail (many more exciting events and opportunities I hope). Already there is a vibrancy about events that focus on the Summer Reads (others coming up include sessions with Anna Funder and Jo Shapcott) and evenings including sessions with Jeanette Winterson and Coetzee. Some will take place when I’m on holiday but I have managed to get some more tickets.
As far as the coming weekend is concerned, which is a very long one indeed with a bank holiday and an extra day off work because of the jubilee festivities, this is time to catch up on some internal decoration as well as reading.