Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet just lately. A full-time (temping) job and some article-writing for a website (believe me when I say, they are both dull and involve hours in front of a PC, wrestling with words and strange concepts), has sapped me of any creativity and taken up every spare moment in the last week. (Aaaagh! How did I get myself into this mess?)
Better not say too much about the job in case anyone reads it and sacks me before I resign. I will say more once I’ve left.
Anyway, I have, in my lonely lunch breaks, managed to read a lovely book this week, which probably stopped me going completely loopy.
It’s local lass (local if you live in the West Mids, anyway!) Catherine O’Flynn’s second novel, ‘The News Where You Are’. Her first novel What Was Lost won a stack of awards, including the 2008 Costa first novel award, so it must have been rather daunting to sit down and start a second book – but I wasn’t disappointed. The girl’s done good. (My tenuous claim to her fame is that I once – for one term – taught her sister in my creative writing class).
This is the kind of novel I would like to write. What I really admired about it (it’s a gentle tale centred around local news reporter Frank Allcroft. Read about it here if you want to know more):
a) the references to Birmingham – it was full of places that I could recognise. I especially liked ‘Byron’s Common’ which was a thinly-disguised ‘Dickens Heath’ and really made me laugh. One of the characters described it as the kind of place where “a big white ball would chase us if we tried to leave.”
Catherine O’Flynn said in an interview I watched on TV that Birmingham is a character in the book (I suppose like New York is a character in ‘Sex And The City’ – but Birmingham, bless it, is not quite so confident or glamorous!)
b) the characters. They are real and Catherine O’Flynn gets you to care about them.
c) her witty, natural dialogue.
She has a very light touch. On the surface, this seemed like a fairly simple story but it says a lot about the human condition and it’s very poignant. When I finished reading it, I had a little tear in my eye. (And no, it wasn’t just the thought of having to go back into the office…..! )