Peter Allison, author of How to Walk a Puma, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Peter Allison

author of Whatever You Do, Don’t RunDon’t Look Behind You, But…  and now How to Walk a Puma

Six Sharp Questions

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1.    Congratulations, you’ve a new book – How to Walk a Puma – what is it about and what does this book mean to you?

This book shakes me out of my comfort zone (the frequently uncomfortable wilds of Africa) and recounts my travels in South America. I really believed that as I am now in my thirties I wouldn’t have the same spirit of adventure that led to so many misadventures in my teens and twenties. I was convinced that in South America I would be a dullard. A week after arriving I was in Bolivia running 16 to 25kms a day through the jungle, tied to a puma who bit me if I ran too slow. I thought “Hmm, maybe there is a Continue reading

Lose weight quickly and safely – guest blogger, Susie Burrell, shows you how…

Lose Weight Fast. Could there be a better title for a book? Who doesn’t want to lose weight fast? It may take us months if not years of eating too much and not moving our bodies enough to gain weight but once we finally get so sick of it that we want to do something about it, we want the extra weight gone as quickly as possible. And this is the reason that the various detox programs and any quirky, new weight loss regime, tablet, book or pill sell so well and make so much money – we want results, we want them now and we are willing to pay to get them.

Now trust me, if there really was an easy way to drop a few kg and keep them off with a minimum of fuss and effort, I would be first in line. The truth is though that while the scales may show a drop of a few kg if you are willing to drink juice, or a lemon drink or just shakes for a number of days in a row, we all know that these programs are just non sustainable. You follow them for a short period of time, get short term results and are inevitably back where you Continue reading

M. J. Rose, author of The Book of Lost Fragrances, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

M. J. Rose

author of The Book of Lost Fragrances

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in New York City – on the upper east side – and raised there. In the shadow of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park. I went to an all girl school – the Lenox School from 1st to 12th grade – including an extra year when I was in 7th grade and got left back. (I was very dyslexic and they felt that if I had an extra year in there I could catch up. I Continue reading

Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany: Review by Toni Whitmont

Warrumbungle ranges - The Breadknife

Many years back, when I was new to the bush, I was standing in the top paddock of a mixed grazing and cropping property backing onto to the Warrumbumble Mountains in north western New South Wales and waxing lyrical about the dramatic horizon all broken into vertical planes by weird ancient dry lava plugs.

The tart response from the farmer – an intimidatingly crusty and independent woman in her 70s – was sobering. “Good views don’t make a farm”, she said in her witheringly succinct crack of a voice.

I was reminded of that day over and over again while reading Carrie Tiffany’s luminous Mateship with Birds, which strips Australian rural life of pastiche and sentimentality, leaving us with something that is beautiful and raw with its own  living, breathing energy.

Let’s get this out of the way quickly. Mateship with Birds is the kind of book that you just don’t want to end. I was left with a feeling of great sadness and loss – not because of the way the story finished, but because I was suddenly cast out of the world into which she transported me. I simply didn’t want to be cut adrift from the gentle dairy farmer, Harry, the purposeful single woman next door Betty, with her two children Michael, on the brink of sexual awakening, and Little Hazel the younger sister dealing with her own initiation into the world of nature.

Tiffany sets her novel in the sexually repressed 1950s of Victoria but her story has a universality about it that transcends time and place. It is a story about love, lust, loneliness, family, animals and the rhythms of nature. She writes with lucid clarity, bringing as much beauty to descriptions of the daily ministrations to lactating cows, to those of Harry’s observations of the viciousness of the birds that patrol the boundaries of his paddock, to the surprising and unexpected yearnings of the human heart. And let’s not forget that despite the strictures of society at the time, growing up in the country meant be surrounded by fecundity and a lot of rutting – the cycle of sex, birth, decay, death is simply an observable fact.

This is a particularly sensual novel, and in that respect, it fits very well into that bush setting. The reader feels the ooze of the soil under hoof, smells the diesel of the red Fergy in the shed, hears the plop of the milk in the pail. And when it comes to longings of a more human kind, Tiffany’s sparse and unsentimental style is both deft and poetic.

Tiffany must have done an enormous amount of research about dairying and bird life, and considering her age and background, has done an incredible job of rendering so palpable a life that she herself could never have experienced and yet lives on the memories of a great many people.  She breathes air into this world with authenticity and sensitivity and I am certainly the richer for experiencing it through her imagination.

This is an exceptional novel. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Order Mateship with Birds here through Booktopia.

Read Carrie Tiffany’s responses to Booktopia’s Ten Terrifying Questions here.

REVIEW: Miles off Course by Sulari Gentill (Guest Reviewer: Booktopia’s Sarah McDuling)

There are few things more gratifying than discovering an author whose books seem so perfectly suited to your tastes as a reader that it feels as though they may have been written especially for you.

After devouring Sulari Gentill’s Miles Off Course in a whirlwind reading session – a reading session interrupted only by a quick break to jump online and purchase A Few Right Thinking Men and A Decline in Prophets (being the previous two installments in the Rowland Sinclair series), I knew that Sulari Gentill had made it onto my list of top ten crime writers.

Set in Australia in 1933, Miles Off Course is a lively and consistently action-packed Historical Crime novel. It could also be classified as a rollicking Outback Adventure or thrilling Spy Drama, or even a witty “fish-out-of-water” comedy, plucking a set of fashionable dilettantes from a bohemian art scene and dropping them in the rugged, rural countryside of the Snowy Mountains.

Gentill opens with the line, “Norman Lindsay is a complete and utter bastard!” and things only get better from there on in. The plot dances inventively around actual historical events and there is more than one cameo appearance made by famous Australian historical figures, one of which remains cleverly incognito until their true identity is revealed in the epilogue. Meanwhile, the historical Australian setting makes for a fascinating backdrop and will appeal to fans of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher novels.

Like all the best crime writers, Gentill has created a brilliantly idiosyncratic protagonist in Rowland Sinclair. Fans of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey and Ngaio Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn will be bound to appreciate a character like Rowland Sinclair.

A well-bred and wealthy Australian gent from a privileged background, Sinclair is somewhat the black sheep of his family.  A renowned painter of naked ladies (gasp!), considered by some as a protégé of Norman Lindsay, he has an unfailing talent for causing scandals and landing himself in life-threatening situations. It is this delightful combination of different roles – Gentleman, Artist, Amateur-Detective and Adventurer – that makes Rowland Sinclair such an entertaining leading man.

Like any self-respecting, wealthy eccentric, Sinclair is accompanied wherever he goes by his very own entourage of equally eccentric fellow artists – condemned by Sinclair’s older brother as a “troupe of unemployed hangers-on.”

Sinclair’s entourage is made up of three companions. Milton Isaacs – a flamboyant poet and arbiter of fashion, Edna Higgins – a beautiful and independent sculptress and Clyde Watson Jones – a painter who honed his craft as something of a wandering vagabond.

The aforementioned older brother, Wilfred Sinclair, is an influential businessman with conservative, right-wing sensibilities who cannot help but disapprove of his younger brother’s less-than-respectable lifestyle. The relationship between the two brothers is rather touching in that while they continually disagree and disappoint each other they are nevertheless very loyal and protective towards each other.

The plot opens with the disappearance of Harry Simpson, an aboriginal stock-hand who has been employed by the Sinclair family since he was a child. Both the Sinclair brothers are convinced that there is something sinister about Harry’s sudden disappearance, despite the fact that his co-workers believe he has simply gone “walkabout”. Harry is more than just an employee to the Sinclair brothers, however, and they are determined to find out what really happened to him. And so Sinclair and his entourage pile into his beloved yellow Mercedes Benz and head for the Snowy Mountains to investigate.

What follows is a madcap adventure of murder, betrayal, abduction, theft, political intrigue and a dash of romance. And just in case that doesn’t sound exciting enough to capture your interest, there is also a Communist spy conspiracy and a hunt for bushranger’s treasure.

The plot of Miles Off Course is a brightly splashed canvas, one that Gentill takes obvious delight in painting. This is the kind of book that is so fun to read that one can’t help but feel that the author must have gotten a real kick out of writing it.  Little wonder then that she should write so quickly. Between the Rowland Sinclair series and her YA fantasy/adventure series, The Hero Trilogy, Gentill is releasing an average of two books a year. Which means that by far the best part about having read Miles Off Course and discovering a new favorite author is that I can now go and devour her earlier novels, safe in the knowledge that there will be many more Rowland Sinclair adventures to come.

Guest Reviewer: Booktopia’s Sarah McDuling

Click here to order a copy of Miles Off Course from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop

Carrie Tiffany, author of Mateship with Birds, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Carrie Tiffany

author of Mateship with Birds and
Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Halifax, England. My family migrated to Western Australia when I was six. At eighteen I went to the Northern Territory and worked as a park ranger for a few years. I now live in Victoria where I work as an agricultural Continue reading

Marina Endicott, author of The Little Shadows, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Marina Endicott

author of The Little Shadows, Good to a Fault and more…

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in the west of Canada, high in the Rocky Mountains, in Golden, British Columbia. My father was an Anglican priest, but returned to graduate school to become first a psychologist, and then a lawyer, so we moved all over Canada following him from university to university. I went to thirteen schools, finishing at a girls’ school, the Bishop Strachan School in Toronto, Canada’s largest city; I went on to studying acting at Continue reading

Celebrate Australia Day by Pre-Ordering Some Great New Australian Fiction!

Sweet Old World

by Deborah Robertson

‘He goes down the stairs, singing Johnny Cash. It’s a song about a man who’s fallen real low, but he’s not low, he’s forty-three years old today, there’s still time. You never know what is waiting, you just never know. This morning he can hope. And this is the thing he doesn’t ever talk about: He wants to be a father, now, not later, he doesn’t want to waste one more minute of his life.’

David Quinn’s dream of family has for years eluded him. Surely what he wants is simple? It’s only what other men have, but there’s no woman in his life, and now that he’s living on a remote island in the Atlantic, do his hopes still stand Continue reading

Nick Lake, author of In Darkness, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Nick Lake

author of In Darkness, The Secret Ministry of Frost and more

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in the north of England, in a place called Hexham, which I’ve never been to, apart from being born there, so I can’t tell you anything about it. Then I was raised, and schooled, in Luxembourg, where my father worked for the European Parliament. So I was a euro-brat. This means that, while I’m English, I arrived at University in England without having lived there, and knowing nothing about British cartoons or children’s television in general. This is a disadvantage in drinking games, as it turns out.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve, I don’t know that I wanted to be anything in particular, other than irresistibly attractive to girls. I probably dreamed of being an assassin or a spy or something stupid (awesome) like that. When I was eighteen, though, I was already fixated on the idea of being a writer. I grew up in a house full to the rafters with books, my mother encouraged reading from an early age, and I had a couple of really inspirational English teachers at high school, so it was something of an inevitability. When I was thirty, my wife was pregnant, and so I suppose my overriding wish was to be a good father. And a lottery winner, so that I could surround my unborn child with the kind of security defences usually seen in a nation state.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

When I was eighteen it seemed obvious to me that God did not exist. And I still don’t believe in a sentient, interventionist God. But since the birth of the aforementioned child, my position has reversed. It now seems to me a self-evidence that the universe, and life, are holy.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

I think I have to choose Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, as the first one, because it arrived in my life just when I was about to go into publishing (I’m an editor as well as a writer), and it completely opened my eyes to what it was possible to achieve in a book for younger readers. I think it’s a masterpiece, one of the few utterly perfect books I have ever read. Without it, I probably wouldn’t have become a children’s book editor, and in turn I probably wouldn’t have written for children.

It’s not something I’d admit to when talking to any member of the literati (just on an online questionnaire that anyone can read), but an absolutely formative influence was the film True Romance. I was a teenager at a time when several people – particularly Quentin Tarantino, who wrote that film – were making films that placed a real emphasis on writing. By which I mean the kind of novelistic structures that Tarantino uses, but also the importance he places on the rhythms and poetry of speech. At the same time, he and his coterie were bringing demotic, genre influences into arthouse cinema, combining grand ambitions with the violence and cool music of the drive-in. I don’t know if books like In Darkness – which as much as it’s a novel about slavery and the brutalizing effect of poverty, is also essentially a gangster story – would exist without Tarantino. (I’d also trace the current mingling of literary and genre fiction, not to Kavalier and Clay as some have claimed, much as I love that book, but to Tarantino.) And True Romance, for me, while it has its flaws, is the purest expression of that era and that ambition. It’s stylish but it also has substance; it’s a genuinely moving love story but it’s also a violent B-movie fantasy. I love everything about it. In fact one of my first dates with my now-wife was to make her watch it on DVD. She loved it so much we had the theme music at our wedding.

Finally, and more inexplicably, I happened to see a sculpture at an exhibition just as I was writing In Darkness, and it had a really profound, visceral effect on me. It’s by Rachel Schwalm and it’s called ‘Body Incarnate’. Schwalm works with huge slabs of marble, into which she cuts rectilinear holes. And then inside the hole, she uses pigments and rust and who knows what else to create these splashes of colour. ‘Body Incarnate’ is a frame of white marble, and then inside, ochres and reds, kind of glowing. I don’t know what it means, but to me, it conjures associations of the heart within the body, the baby within the womb, Jesus within the tomb. It seems to say something about deserts, and life itself, and religion. I would go so far as to say that it’s the most beautiful object I have ever seen – and I have thought about it almost constantly since. It induces mad thoughts in me, along the lines of, ‘I just need to win the lottery so that I can get a bigger house and then I can buy the sculpture (as well as aforementioned army)’. Since In Darkness is about a boy, a little point of human light, trapped in the darkness of fallen rubble, I think the influence is probably obvious.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

I don’t believe there were any other artistic avenues available to me – I can’t draw, and I’m appallingly lacking in musical ability. Writing is the only artistic thing I can do. Having said that, I do think it’s a uniquely fascinating art form: what it does is to create – not even on the page but in the mind of the reader – a four-dimensional picture, a kind of time-sculpture, made up of the story stretching from beginning to end. And it’s not just visual – it incorporates smell and taste, all sensations. Reading a book is the closest thing possible to possession, to being another person, and you can carry it around in your pocket. It’s astonishing.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel In Darkness…

In Darkness is about Shorty, a teenage gangster from the slums of Haiti, who finds himself trapped under a fallen hospital, after the earthquake of January 2010. There, in the darkness, thirsty, desperate and alone, he looks back on his life as a gangster, on his long search for his sister, who was kidnapped by a rival gang, and on the terrible things he has done to try to get her back. There’s a certain aspect of mystery, too, since Shorty has been shot in the arm, hence being in hospital, but we don’t know why. And of course there’s the greater mystery of whether or not he will be dug out, whether he will be saved.

At the same time, as the days of isolation and thirst stretch out, Shorty starts to dream, or to hallucinate, the story of Toussaint l’Ouverture, the Haitian slave leader of the late 18th century, who managed the extraordinary military achievement of defeating the French army, as well as forces from Spain and Britain, to free his people.

As the lives of these two characters merge, and we learn more and more about the dark history that has brought Shorty to hospital with a bullet wound, and the terrible things he did to try to find his lost sister, the line between reality and fiction, between past and present gets increasingly blurred, and a kind of possession occurs, of the present day boy by the 18th century hero.

Click here to order your copy of In Darkness from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop.

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I think the overarching theme of the book is hope, and the existence of hope. Really awful things happen to Shorty in the course of the story, and to the slaves of the eighteenth century. And Shorty does awful things too. But in the end, all hope is not lost, and I feel that’s an essential truth about life in general.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

This really is a terrifying question, because admiration is very different to liking. There are plenty of authors whose books I love, but do I admire them… I don’t know. Admiration implies a moral dimension, doesn’t it?

There is a writer I love and admire, though, and that’s Marilynne Robinson, the author of Gilead and Home. Until I read Home, I thought Middlemarch was the best novel I had ever read, but I think Home might just edge it out. Robinson’s prose is a thing of miracle – honed, poised, often turning on the ineffably perfect placement of a semi-colon. No word is wasted. And, at the same time, Home is the most extraordinarily good book in the moral sense. On the surface it’s a family drama, rather quiet, without any startling events. But as the book goes on, it reveals itself to be about, among other things, segregation in America in the mid-twentieth century, and the failure of Christianity to face up to what was, essentially, an egregious offence to the very principles on which Christianity was founded. It also reminds you, powerfully, of just how recently the civil rights movement occurred – by giving you this very small human window into what it must have been like to be condemned to the life of a second-class citizen because of the colour of your skin.

It’s quite an angry book, in a very restrained and quiet way. It’s also overwhelmingly sad. But I would urge every person in the world to read it.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

I don’t know that I have goals, in particular. To write good books, I guess. And maybe to move people, and, if at all possible, to get them to think about and empathise with people in very different situations. To reveal the common humanity, the common story. I hope it doesn’t sound too naïve or evangelical to say that we still live in a world in which half the population live in conditions of horrific deprivation and violence, and that seems unacceptable. In that context I can’t see the point of writing about a love triangle in London. (I apologise for this excess of sincerity.)

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

My advice to aspiring writers is to ignore all advice to aspiring writers, including my reply to this question. I would also like to preface this reply with the caveat that, by answering, I’m not suggesting that I know what writers should do. I don’t. I’m answering this more as a reader and editor than a writer, because to answer as a writer would suggest that I think I’ve reached a point where I’m pleased with my writing. And I’m not – I think I still have a long way to go.

But anyway… what aspiring writers should especially ignore is any kind of injunction to write what they know. You don’t have to write what you know – that is, you don’t have to write about your place and time. What you do have to do is to put some of your own emotion into what you write. I think a book is like a Frankenstein’s monster – you build it out of fragments of inspiration and ideas. But then you animate it with your own feelings. You can write about a place you’ve never been to, as long as you put some of your own, real, human emotion into the story. That’s what makes the story feel real.

Young Adult Edition

Personally, I’ve also found that the advice to write every day, or its subtle variant, to have a notebook at hand at all times, is nonsense. I tried this, and what I ended up doing was working hard to incorporate the clever lines I had jotted down in my notebook, which ends up feeling like rather an artificial exercise; better, I think, to remain in the flow of the story as you’re writing. If you happen to come up with clever lines as you go, then all the better, but if you’re shoehorning them in from a notebook, then you’re interrupting the movement, I think.

I also don’t believe this notion that you have to write a thousand words a day, or what have you. There are plenty of very good writers (like Marilynne Robinson) who have barely written at all (three books in 20 years), and, vice versa, there are plenty of very prolific, very bad writers. To go back to that Frankenstein analogy, I subscribe to the Pixar view of stories, as articulated by John Lasseter: If the story doesn’t have a heart, it doesn’t work. That’s the all-important thing. You can write a thousand words a day if you want, but as far as I’m concerned you’d be better off thinking about the story, and how it’s going to operate on an emotional level. It has to make the reader feel something.

Oh, and some advice from my side-career as an editor: spend a lot of time on your title – maybe just as much time as you spend writing the book. Titles are very, very important. And then the usual Hemingway stuff: Don’t use adverbs. Don’t use any other replacement for the word ‘said’ (‘replied’ and ‘shouted’ are allowed, at a pinch.) The point of the word ‘said’ is that the reader doesn’t see it. Don’t use the word ‘suddenly’. Never, ever write a dream scene – they distract from the story, and are usually a cheat for giving the reader information they haven’t earned.

But, as I said, this advice is probably wrong for you anyway – it’s just the advice I wish someone had given me, instead of all that stuff about writing in notebooks. Please, therefore, ignore everything I have just said. (Apart from the dream scene thing.)

Nick, thank you very much for playing.

News from the UK: Costa book award: Andrew Miller wins for sixth novel, Pure

Vivid tale of life in pre-revolutionary Paris beats Matthew Hollis’s biography of Edward Thomas to £30,000 prize cheque writes Mark Brown in The Guardian

A vividly told story of life in pre-revolutionary Paris on Tuesday won the 2011 Costa book award in what turned out to be a bitterly fought two-way tussle between fact and fiction.

Andrew Miller was given one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes – and a £30,000 cheque – at a ceremony in London for his sixth novel, Pure.

The chairman of the judges, Geordie Greig, said “there really was a fierce debate” during the 90-minute judging discussion. “There was quite bitter dissent and argument to find the winner. The debate was prolonged with passionate views over two books.” The books were Pure and Now All Roads Lead to France, Matthew Hollis’s gripping and moving biography of the war poet Edward Thomas.

Greig, editor of the London Evening Standard, said the prize, which chooses the best overall book from five categories – novel, biography, poetry, children’s novel and first novel – was one which came “with a sense of impossibility about it. You’re not just comparing apples and oranges, it feels like you’re comparing bananas and chicken curry. It makes the task difficult and interesting.” He said Pure emerged as the majority winner after 45 minutes of quite bitter “toing and froing, dinging and donging” – not unpleasant, he said, but “forthright”. Read full article…

Costa book of the year winner Andrew Miller. Photograph: Abbie Trayler-Smith

PURE

The author of the prize-winning, hugely acclaimed INGENIOUS PAIN returns to the 18th century with an enthralling tale set in pre-revolutionary Paris.

A year of bones, of grave-dirt, relentless work. Of mummified corpses and chanting priests.
A year of rape, suicide, sudden death. Of friendship too. Of desire. Of love…
A year unlike any other he has lived.

Deep in the heart of Paris, its oldest cemetery is, by 1785, overflowing, tainting the very breath of those who live nearby. Into their midst comes Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young, provincial engineer charged by the king with demolishing it.

At first Baratte sees this as a chance to clear the burden of history, a fitting task for a modern man of reason. But before long, he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to his own.

About the Author : Andrew Miller was born in Bristol in 1960. He has lived in Spain, Japan, Ireland and France, and currently lives in Somerset. His first novel, INGENIOUS PAIN, was published by Sceptre in 1997 and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Grinzane Cavour prize in Italy. He has since written four novels: CASANOVA, OXYGEN, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award and the Booker Prize in 2001, THE OPTIMISTS, and ONE MORNING LIKE A BIRD.

Click here to buy PURE from Booktopia

Runner up and Winner 2011 Costa Biography Award

Now All Roads Lead to France : The Last Years of Edward Thomas
by Matthew Hollis

A fascinating exploration of one of Britain’s most influential First World War poets.

Edward Thomas was perhaps the most beguiling and influential of First World War poets. Now All Roads Lead to France is an account of his final five years, centred on his extraordinary friendship with Robert Frost and Thomas’s fatal decision to fight in the war. The book also evokes an astonishingly creative moment in English literature, when London was a battleground for new, ambitious kinds of writing. A generation that included W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, Robert Frost and Rupert Brooke were ‘making it new’ – vehemently and pugnaciously.

These larger-than-life characters surround a central figure, tormented by his work and his marriage. But as his friendship with Frost blossomed, Thomas wrote poem after poem, and his emotional affliction began to lift. In 1914 the two friends formed the ideas that would produce some of the most remarkable verse of the twentieth century. But the War put an ocean between them: Frost returned to the safety of New England while Thomas stayed to fight for the Old.

It is these roads taken – and those not taken – that are at the heart of this remarkable book, which culminates in Thomas’s tragic death on Easter Monday 1917.

Matthew Hollis is the author of Ground Water, short listed for the Whitbread Prize for Poetry, the Guardian First Book Award and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Now All Roads Lead to France is his first prose book.

Click here to buy Now All Roads Lead to France from Booktopia

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