As is probably evident by my choice of books, I am a child of the end of Empire and the start of the second Elizabethan Age. Born of an English mother and Indian father, I have watched and been affected by the transformation of Britain into – dare I use the word – a multicultural society? It has inspired and informed my own writing and continues to be a fascination.
The multiculturalism I believe in is upholding people’s rights to their religion and cultural heritage while, nonetheless, strengthening an awareness of what we have in common, and a common cause.
My last novel, The Robber Baron’s Daughter, was published in 2008. I published a collection of original fairytales ‘Blackberry Blue’ in 2013 and since then have written two plays, and contributed to a number of anthologies and series to do with war, winter and Shakespeare. I am, at present, working on a new novel set in WW2.
War of the End of the World
Mario Llosa Varga
Wittgenstin said, ‘I think differently, in a different way. I say different things to myself. I have different pictures.’
This novel is set against an actual conflict which took place in Brazil in the late 19th-century.about a man who saw the world differently.
Antonio Conselheiro is a charismatic, religious leader – a Bin Laden of his day with echoes of Jesus. He draws to him those who lived on the edges of society: the deformed, the unaccepted, and the poor. It becomes a battle between th State, the Church, conventional society and the outsider. He prophesies the end of the world, but promises them salvation. He leads his followers into a wilderness of fanatical loyalty, brutality, and death. I read it post 9/11 and post the death of Bin Laden, and was becoming aware of the rise of ISIS. To change or overcome your enemy, you have to know him.
The Siege of Krishnapur
India, 1857 was the year of the Great Mutiny, when Muslim soldiers turned in bloody rebellion on their British overlords. Farrell's story is set in an isolated Victorian outpost and describes the inevitable breakdown of class and status of the soldiers and families caught up in the siege. It acts as a metaphor for the way the most powerful structures can be turned on their heads, and new survival skills come to the fore.
Kipling was still a young writer when he wrote Kim, but this book not only displays his remarkable skills as a writer, but Kipling’s love affair with India. He may have believed in the superiority of British Imperialism to rule the world, but this should not be confused with his innate sense of justice, his fascination with the world, and his own insatiable curiosity. He was not only a born writer but a born teacher.
The English Patient
This is a classic construct: WW2 , a villa in Italy in which a group of diverse people are drawn together and where their individual stories unfold. Not only is it full of detail and information; descriptions of the desert or colonial life in Egypt, it is lyrical and moving storytelling which has stayed with me for all the years since I first read the book.
Small Island is a remarkable interweaving of people’s lives after the war. Full of dry humour and irony, Levy manages, through her characters, to give an intimate insight into the social attitudes and circumstances of the times. in an economically damaged Britain and a crumbling British Empire, emigration and immigration clash; wanted but unwanted by a struggling economy, and a society riddled with prejudices about colour and class.