Mono No Aware and Going Back to a Childhood Home

 

 

I don’t speak or read any Japanese but I recently came across this Japanese term: mono no aware. There is no direct translation into English, but as far as I can understand, it means a sadness or sensitivity at the impermanent, transient nature of things or life.

As part of the publicity for the UK release of my novel Bitter Orange, I was asked to write a piece for The Guardian to go in their ‘Made in’ section. This short article is written each week by a different author about the place that influenced them the most when growing up.

Brook Cottage2

Mine was about the freedom I had as a child to roam the countryside around Sydenham – the small Oxfordshire village where I was born and spent the first ten years of my life. My father renovated a cottage in that village, and then built a house next door which we moved into. For six months while the build was going on we lived in a static caravan onsite and I played amongst the house’s foundations and helped my dad stack bricks. We sold the house in 1977 when my parents divorced.
The Caravan, while building The Millstream

The article was published in The Guardian on 4th August and you can read it here.

A day or so after it was published online I looked at the comments under the article. The first one said, ‘Claire, we live in the house your family built. You’re welcome to come and visit any time’. And then I got a message on Twitter from a man called Mark, saying the same thing. Via a series of direct messages on Twitter we established that Mark’s parents had bought the house from my family, and many years later he bought it from his mother.


Building The Millstream with Roy Nokes and Katie

A couple of weeks ago me, my husband, and my eighty-year-old father went back to visit the house for the first time in forty-one years.

I was excited to be visiting, but also worried about feelings that I couldn’t quite pin down: a kind of sadness at all the time that had passed since we lived there, a nostalgia for my childhood, but also happiness to be able to go back. All those feelings were still there when we arrived, but Mark, his wife, Emily, his mother (who is Japanese*), and his children made us very welcome. We were shown around the house, looking at what was different (a much improved kitchen and family room), and what was the same (the open-tread stairs, the wrought-iron fire screens and door handles, and the bedrooms). Mark’s neighbour also invited us into the cottage next door, and I was shocked at how tiny the rooms were when I remembered them as being huge. My dad, also clearly moved, told us about the minor injuries he sustained while digging damp-proof courses, and an indoor bathroom.

But the nicest part of the visit for me was standing with Mark in his son’s bedroom, which had been Mark’s, and before that had been mine. We looked out through the high window at the back garden and I had a lovely moment of mono no aware at the thought that all three of us had been (or were) children in that room, looking out the window at the garden, and that at some point in the future another child, possibly still unborn, would gaze out through that window too.

 

*Apologies to Mark’s mother if my translation of mono no aware isn’t exactly correct.

Bitter Orange is Published in the UK

 

Shelves

My third novel, Bitter Orange was published in the UK last week. It was a crazy and exciting week, with a launch in London at Waterstones Covent Garden (they have lots of signed copies), and another in my home town of Winchester. I also went on a walk around London signing copies in other bookshops including Daunts, Heywood Hill, and Hatchards. It was hot! DSCF9056

The book has been getting great reviews:

“Fuller is an accomplished and serious writer who has the ability to implant interesting psychological dimensions into plotty, pacy narratives.” The Observer

“It is rare for me to put down a novel and then immediately consider rereading it to see what cleverness I might have missed. This time, though, I am tempted.” The Sunday Times

“Fuller is a master at summoning the atmosphere of a heady, hot summer, that thrums with tension.” Stylist Magazine

HatchardsRead more reviews here.

Bitter Orange has been longlisted for The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize. Which books are shortlisted depends on a public vote. If you’d like to vote for Bitter Orange, you can do that here. (And thank you!). Voting can be from anyone anywhere in the world, and closes at midnight on 6th August (UK time).

If you’d like to buy a copy of Bitter Orange it’s available in most UK bookshops now, or online as an audio, e-book, and hardback. Click here to see options.

 

Bitter Orange: A Week To Go

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My third novel, Bitter Orange, will be published in the UK in hardback a week today. The ebook and the audio version are already available to buy. So right now it’s that exciting and nerve-wracking time when people who have had an early copy are starting to talk about it online. So far, the talk, and the reviews have been good.

“In the vein of Shirley Jackson’s bone-chilling The Haunting of Hill House, Fuller’s disturbing novel will entrap readers in its twisty narrative, leaving them to reckon with what is real and what is unreal. An intoxicating, unsettling masterpiece.” Kirkus (starred review)

“The real interest lies in the fascinating gaps and contradictions, the complexity of the characters and the thematic richness. It is rare for me to put down a novel and then immediately consider rereading it to see what cleverness I might have missed. This time, though, I am tempted.” The Sunday Times

“Bitter Orange is undoubtedly a modern classic that defies categorisation but is just wonderful to read. It’s subtle, unnerving, intelligent and a supreme example of the written craft.” Linda’s Book Bag

Read more reviews.

If you have read an early copy I’d love to know what you think, or please leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or just tell your friends about it.

The hardback is available to pre-order from all bookshops – independents and chains – or online. The ebook and audio book are available to buy now.

Flash: Flare

 

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The spot of light, perfectly circular, roamed her bedroom, over her clothes and the dead fern on the windowsill – a sudden wincing flare as it crossed the mirror. At the window she craned her neck to find its source, but saw no one. The wavering beam sought her out while she backed into a dark corner, and followed her as she scrabbled under the bed. She ducked and weaved, and when she cried out she felt the heat on her tongue and down her throat as she swallowed. Below her beating heart, through flesh and skin she saw the glow.

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This is a 100-word piece of flash fiction inspired by the picture above, supplied by Dale Rogerson (thanks Dale!) and as part of Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thanks Rochelle!). If you’d like to write your own story and join in, click here to find out how, or here to read other people’s.

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This week I was very pleased to find out that my third novel, Bitter Orange, has received a starred-review from Kirkus.

Bitter Orange receives starred review from Kirkus

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Some early reviews from book bloggers and Amazon reviewers are already coming in for Bitter Orange (published in the UK on 2nd August, and in the US and Canada on October 9th). And I’m pleased to say the vast majority are very positive. But one that I’m especially delighted about is a starred review from Kirkus.

Kirkus is an American book review magazine which is notoriously rigorous. It reviews more than 8000 books each year, and only about 10% of these are given a star accolade.

Due to copyright restrictions, I’m not able to post the review on my website, but you can read it here.

Flash Fiction: Ära ava

venice-fatima

Sometimes he took a box home, a perk of the job. Bottled water when the supply went bad, live crabs for Feliks his Estonian friend, ice-cream for his nephews.

Ära ava*, was printed on the box’s side. An exotic fruit he thought; too heavy for herbal tea. When Feliks came around with the Friday night vodka and blood sausage, he put the box under the table.

In the morning he remembered the fruit: oranges, maybe, to cure a hangover. The box was open and empty on the kitchen table, Feliks’s glasses smashed upon the floor.

(*Estonian for Do Not Open)

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This is a 100-word (exactly) flash fiction story, inspired by the picture above, provided by Fatima Fakier Deria. Click here to join in and here to read other writers’ stories.

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My American publisher, Tin House, is offering US readers the opportunity to join their ‘Galley Club’ for my third novel, Bitter Orange. Galley Club readers receive an early copy of Bitter Orange, in exchange for answering a questionnaire, and leaving a review of the book. Sign up here by June 27.

Flash fiction: Bird of Paradise

meep-by-the-window

She wears a hat she’s made herself. No so much a hat, more a creation of feathers, net and fluff on the side of her head, as though an exotic creature is about to take flight. Understanding her place she hangs back behind the other mourners, his white wife and his sad children. She remembers the eleven years of Tuesday afternoons when he’d whisper my bird of paradise in her ear and tuck the money under the pillow. Now, after everyone’s gone she holds the hat over the coffin in the ground, pauses, and then re-pins it to her hair.

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This is a 100-word (exactly) flash fiction story, inspired by the picture above, provided by Jean L Hayes. Click here to join in and to read other writers’ stories. It’s a long time since I’ve written a Friday Fictioneers story. I’ve missed it.

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My third novel, Bitter Orange will be published in less than two months in the UK by Penguin. You can read the first paragraph here.

Bitter Orange published in two months

Bitter Orange jacket: Oranges and dark leaves, with smashed plate

 

In two months, Bitter Orange, my third novel will be published in the UK by Fig Tree / Penguin. Lots of proofs have gone out, and reviews from booksellers and quotes from other authors are starting to come in, and suddenly it feels very real. Exciting and terrifying.

In anticipation of the publication, I thought you might like to read the first paragraph, and if it tempts you, links for pre-ordering are below.

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They must think I don’t have long left, because today they allow the vicar in. Perhaps they are right, although this day feels no different from yesterday, and I imagine tomorrow will go on much the same. The vicar – no, not vicar, he has a different title, I forget – is older than me by a good few years, his hair is grey, and his skin is flaky and red, sore-looking. I didn’t ask for him; what faith I’d once had was tested and found lacking at Lyntons, and before that my church attendance was a habit, a routine for Mother and me to arrange our week around. I know all about routine and habit in this place. It is what we live, and what we die, by.

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I’d love you to go into your local independent book shop and pre-order Bitter Orange, or your local chain book shop. But if that’s not possible, you can pre-order here online:  here (UK), here (US), or here (Canada).

 

The Oddest Thing Found in a UK library book

Reading agency

I’ve recently had the good fortune (or perhaps misfortune) to judge the winner of the oddest thing ever found in a library book for the Reading Agency, and it was an illuminating experience.

It seems readers are a mucky lot. Librarians found a lot of unmentionables, that I’m not of course, going to mention, as well as a great deal of food. Bacon rashers – cooked and raw – featured prominently, as did chocolate bars, or their wrappers, orange peel, a chicken bone (we hope!), and mummified pizza. One librarian even found a fried egg, while another came across a kipper (luckily still in its vacuum-packed plastic).

A few readers were more considerate of those wonderful people who look after our books, and inserted between the pages ‘A Note From Emily,’ saying why she’d enjoyed the book, and in another, a letter saying how much that borrower loved their library.

But people can be forgetful, clearly grabbing the closest thing to hand to use as a bookmark, including postcards, a ‘herbal’ cigarette, train tickets, receipts, hairclips, loo roll, ribbons, spooky tarot cards, and quite a bit of money. Some of the money was reunited with its owners, as was the baby scan photo found in a parenting book.

However, librarians aren’t completely blameless when it comes to forgetfulness. Staff at one library found a debit card in a book and just as a particular librarian started criticising the stupidity of the debit card owner, she looked at the card and it was hers. Another library found a red sock in a fiction book which was claimed by an ex member of staff. When she was asked about it, she said she couldn’t find anything else to use as a bookmark.

But after sifting through all the entries, I’m pleased to announce that the winner is the entry from Rachael Smart (@smartrachael) on Twitter, who runs the book club for The Motherload. She found the sinisterly beautiful and appropriate, pressed cabbage white butterfly, ‘fragile as lace, tucked inside the pages of The Silence of the Lambs’.

Thank you to everyone who entered. You have given me a great deal of entertainment, even if that did include quite a bit of squealing in disgust.

And to read about the oddest things that Americans found in library books click here.