‘SOME WILL DISMISS HER AS A PESKY CHILD'
A debut novelist in her sixties, Wales' Mari Strachan has ambitions to write in her mother tongue. For now, she tells Yasmin Sulaiman about a WW2 narrator
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in linglish is littered with novelists attempting to capture the bold yet naive voice of adolescence. In her debut novel. The [furl/I Ilium in If I’lut. Welsh writer Mari Strachan stylishly adds to this corpus with her lively narrator (iwenni Morgan. a young girl on the cusp of puberty. with a nose for detective stories and an unbridled desire to get to the bottom of a local villager's ill-fated disappearance. Strachan grew up in Harlech in North Wales and worked as a librarian in England before turning to writing. .\'ow retired and in her sixties. the native Welsh speaker claims the idea for her debut was born from a simple. though obscure. image. ‘lt sounds sadistic but a picture came into my mind of a raggedy looking child with red hair. standing on a chair with her arms stretched out.‘
This slightly strange figure succinctly sums tip (‘iwenni who. to her overbearing mother‘s annoyance. thinks she can fly. But Strachan believes that the characters poetic tendency for oddness could possibly be the book's downfall: ‘I do suspect that she is a character that will get very mixed reactions. I think that some people will love her and others will dismiss her as a pesky child: but that’s also quite nice because you're trying to get people involved in the book.‘ Though clearly set in her homeland (the noyel is written in English but with characters speaking Welsh). Straehan’s debut gives few clues as to its precise setting. save for references to Snowdon sky'lines and the l958 Munich air disaster. But its image-driven. suspenseful prose conjures up a richly-
30 THE LIST 5—19 Mar 2009
te\tured portrait of a community on the \erge of
dramatic upheayal. The domestic disruption caused by the Second World War has deyastating consequences for (iwenni's family but. in contrast to this bleak denouement. Strachan appears upbeat. '1! will be wonderful to see what book readers will think of it. l’ei‘lile come to a book with so much of their own perceptions about things. don’t they'.’ We all read differently.‘
And with (‘anongate already commissioning the work for translation into seyeral languages. The [furl/i
l/lmis in li’ /”/ul looks likely to make a global impact if
initial reception continues to be positiye. Strachan. who owns the rights to the Welsh translation. is particularly Proud of this. ‘l‘ye had contact with some of the translators and a lot of them haye said that they didn't know much about \Vales before reading the book. They didn‘t ey en realise it had its own language.
I feel really good about that.’ But where neyt for
Wales‘ newest literary star'.’ Despite being caught tip in publicity for her book lincluding an appearance at .-\ye Write? i. Strachan has already begun work on her next noyel. which also eyamines the effects of war on families. lloweyer. writing in her mother tongue will haye to wait for now. 'liyentually. lid like to write a novel in Welsh. she say s with clear eycitement. 'but at this point in time I'm more interested in taking Wales to the \yol‘ld.‘
The Earth Hums in 8 Flat is published by Canongate on Thu 5 Mar; Strachan appears at Aye Write! on Sat 14 Mar.
* Benjamin Zephaniah The charismatic poet, novelist. actor. playwright and campaigner reads new and published work. Zephaniah will also be discussing causes he holds close to his heart. Mitchell Library, Glasgow, Tue 10 Mar.
* International Women’s Day: An Evening of Poerty Tessa Ranstord, Morelle Smith and Anne Clarke read from their collections while singer- songwriter (and concertina player) Nancy Nicholson provides the music. Blackwell, Edinburgh, Thu 5 Mar.
* Kate Summerscale and Ian Rankin Rankin interrogates Summerscale about her novel, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House. the tale of murder in a Victorian country house that created the cult of the detective. Mitchell Library, Glasgow, Thu 12 Mar.
33 Dave Gibbons Co-creator of one of greatest graphic novels of all time. Watchmen. Gibbons will no doubt be fielding questions on his feelings on the book’s imminent adaptation tor the big screen. Borders Books, Glasgow, Sat 14 Mar.
* Geoff Dyer and David Robinson A conversational evening with the genre-bending author of But Beautiful and Out of Sheer Rage and The Scotsman literary editor. Mitchell Library, Glasgow, Sat 14 Mar.
* Catherine O’Flynn and Mari Strachan These two first-time novelists compare and contrast their experiences of writing stories about secret lives. detection and truth. See preview, left. Mitchell Library, Glasgow, Sat 14 Mar.
* Stona Fitch The latest novel from the Scottish-Cherokee writer described as “Kafka in overdrive'. His dystopian world- view is given a free rein in Pn'nter's Devil. See review, page 31.