Helen Dunmore

b. 1952 – d. 2017

Helen Dunmore was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1997.

I was delighted to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, because it’s an honour given by writers to writers. We may be solitary creatures in our work but we need to band together too. I like the idea of fellowship very much.

The photograph here is taken in Cornwall, on the softer southern coast of the peninsula. The Lie is set on the north coast, which I know far better.  In the novel there’s a constant interplay between characters and place.  I began with a man returning from war, homeless and jobless, building a shelter, cleaning out an empty cottage, planting a vegetable garden on a cliff edge, unable to speak about what has happened to him in the trenches.  And from this the other characters and the story of their shared past developed.

At the time of writing this I’m currently reading – or rather re-reading – the shortlist for this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Because I’ve judged several literary prizes over the years, I know that there is a good deal of luck involved and all judgments are subjective.  Different judges would choose different books; perhaps even the same judges on a different day might choose different books. The attention drawn to books by literary prizes is precious, and this in itself justifies them. However, I don’t believe that  there should be a gladiatorial climate, with one book seen as a victor and others as defeated contenders.  This cannot be the truth about literature.

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