Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
A Page in the Life: Joseph Connolly
Elena Seymenliyska talks to Joseph Connolly about why his nostalgic novel has been ignored by the Booker judges.
Joseph Connolly, author of England's LanePhoto: Martin Pope
By Elena Seymenliyska
The Telegraph - 16 Aug 2012
England’s Lane tells the stories of three families who live above three shops – the ironmonger’s, the butcher’s and the sweetshop. It is set in north-west London in 1959, a time and a place Joseph Connolly knows well – as a child, he lived around the corner, and his mother sometimes worked in the hairdresser’s.
The street has changed since then, of course – now it has a Starbucks, a couple of estate agents, an Indian and a Chinese – but not as much as you’d think. Allchin the chemist, where the sweetshop man buys his wife’s pills, is still there. As is the Washington, the pub where the ironmonger goes for his pints of Bass.
“It was a real beery hellhole, I remember the stink,” says Connolly over a glass of rosé in one of the Washington’s snugs. “That smell of stale beer and old carpet and dead men.”
But the book is not autobiographical, as Connolly is keen to stress. No wonder: England’s Lane features a gallery of grotesques – repulsive men, duplicitous women and not-so-innocent children – in a story of secrets, lies and brutal murder. This, his 11th novel, is a return to the themes of his last, Jack the Lad and Bloody Mary (2007), about a backstreet abortionist and her spivvy bloke during the Second World War. And it is a return to the period of Love Is Strange (2005), the story of your average Fifties family, with violence, prostitution and sexual abuse thrown in (the last, set in an Irish convent, so disturbing it should come with a health warning).
“That was very difficult to write,” Connolly says. “My wife was in tears. She said, ‘Look, I’ve never skipped any of your books, I don’t want to, but I’ve got to do this in very small doses.’” Some readers, however, are less committed, and a glance at the Amazon reviews shows two camps – those who love his darkness, and those who recoil from it with loathing. A bit of a Marmite man, then? He laughs, rippling the grey hair that flows from his face. “Well, yes, apparently! Except that Marmite sells awfully well.” Full story at The Telegraph