Novels

I never re-read my novels after publication. I'm always already in the next one, and what's gone is gone. Since my novels were all written between 1978 and 2000, this means it's 20 or 30 years since I read most of them, and some I'd almost completely forgotten in any detail. My fiction was, to me, a terra incognita. People would ask 'What would you recommend I read next?' and really I've had no idea!

Recently (October 2010) I decided to re-read all my novels. With some trepidation. I know the experience of re-reading an old poem and finding that it's dead. Would that happen with my novels? I could read them now almost like the works of a stranger.

Well, I found only one corpse: 'Sphinx'. Parts of it were alive, but as a whole it had died on me. For the rest, I enjoyed the experience. And it answered a worry I've had, that perhaps it was a mistake, dictated by circumstances, to have moved from verse into prose fiction for twenty years. But no, it was wise, I've found. In my strongest novels, I believe prose fiction allowed me to be more daring, metaphoric and innovative --in fact, more poetic-- than I was and am in verse. My poetry is more like prose, and my prose more like poetry!

I think my strongest novels are 'The White Hotel', 'Ararat', 'Flying in to Love', 'Pictures at an Exhibition', 'Eating Pavlova' and 'The Flute-Player'. That's a purely subjective judgement, of course. Who could ever trust an author's own view of his work? The re-reading experience was important solely for me; it's allowed me to 'own' those novels again.

Pleasant surprises: The authentic working-class Cornishness in 'Birthstone' --far from the imported 'Cornishness' of a Du Maurier; and the vitality I still found in the 'slighter' novels, 'Summit' and 'Charlotte'.

Regrets (I have a few): my stupid decision to make the three sections of 'Sphinx' respectively drama, prose and verse. They simply don't cohere. 'Swallow', quite rich and inventive, is marred by self-indulgence late on, though still generally I like it.

I should have done a final paring-down revision of 'Pictures at an Exhibition', making it a little less complex. I had to re-read it a second time to 'get' it all!

'Lady with a Laptop' is, I think, funny, especially for readers who have been to Skyros, but it's too rambling and with too many characters. It's my second-worst novel.

Now I invite you to read ALL my novels and disagree with me!

My great love was always poetry --verse. I knew a lot of it and about it. With the novel, I didn't know much. Don't often read them. So I was uninhibited when I turned to writing them. It helped.

The Flute Player

(Gollancz, 1979)

Birthstone

(Gollancz, 1980)

The White Hotel

(Viking, 1981)

Ararat

(Gollancz, 1983)

Swallow

(Gollancz, 1984)

Sphinx

(Gollancz, 1986)

Summit

(Gollancz, 1987)

Lying Together

(Gollancz, 1990)

Flying Into Love

(Scribner's, 1992)

Pictures at an Exhibition

(Bloomsbury, 1993)

Eating Pavlova

(Carroll & Graf, 1994)

Lady with a Laptop

(Carroll and Graf. 1996)

Charlotte

(Duck. 2000)