US Cover of Unsettled Ground

I’m thrilled to be able to show you the amazing US cover of Unsettled Ground for the first time. It was designed by Diane Chonette, the Art Director at my US publisher, Tin House, using art work by Valerie Hegarty. What do you think? Drop me a line and let me know.

The cover was revealed today on Entertainment Weekly’s website, and they have also published a sneak preview of chapter one. Read it here.

Unsettled Ground will be published in the US on 18th May 2021.

If you missed what the UK cover looks like, you can see it here.

Free bookplates for any of my books

I’m so excited to be part of the UK campaign to support bookshops throughout lockdown – #SignForOurBookshops. During the last lockdown, bookshops moved mountains to remain operational – taking orders online, or over the phone. They now face a second lockdown in the build-up to Christmas, their busiest sales period. 

#SignForOurBookshops is a national show of support from UK authors, urging people to keep buying through bookshops by offering exclusive signed bookplates to stores and customers. Over 200 authors are taking part so far, including me!

The former Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, has designed bespoke bookplates for the campaign. Buying a #SignForOurBookshops book is buying a slice of positive history in a challenging year. What better Christmas present idea than that? 

WHAT IS A ‘BOOKPLATE’?

It’s a signed label that you can stick into the front page of books, so it’s like having a personalised, signed, copy.

HOW TO GET A BOOKPLATE

I will send a signed, personalised bookplate to the first 50 people who buy one of my books through a UK bricks and mortar bookshop during lockdown.

This offer is a first-come-first-served basis. Just drop me an email to claire@clairefuller.co.uk with a picture of your receipt (from a UK bricks and mortar bookshop) for one of my published books – Our Endless Numbered Days, Swimming Lessons, or Bitter Orange – and let me know your address and any particular dedication you would like on the bookplate. And I’ll post a book plate to you, free of charge.

AND PLEASE SUPPORT BOOKSHOPS!

If you buy a signed copy, do try and pick other books up while you’re shopping with that store. Books make incredible, thoughtful Christmas presents – even if they’re not signed. 

Check out #SignForOurBookshops on Twitter and Instagram to see the hundreds of other authors who are offering bookplates.

Agent & Author Q&A Event

On Thursday 12th November I’ll be appearing on Zoom with my literary agent, Jane Finigan from Lutyens and Rubinstein to talk about how we work together on my books. I’ll also be reading from Unsettled Ground, due to be published in the UK in January 2021 (and May 2021 in the US and Canada).

The event is being run by Blue Pencil, an editorial services agency who run writing retreats (where I’ve been a guest), and provide manuscript advice.

So, if you’re writing a novel, sign up to the event and come and ask me and Jane some questions. I’d love to see you there and I’m happy to answer any question about writing, getting published, or finding an agent. Click here to buy a ticket.

Blue Pencil are also running their Pitch Prize for unpublished authors, and the prize, for up to seven writers, is to be able to pitch your novel to Jane. More information here.

L’été des oranges amères published today

L’été des oranges amères (aka Bitter Orange) is published in France today. After the tremendous success of Un mariage anglais (aka Swimming Lessons) in France last summer, I’m hoping that French readers will enjoy my third novel just as much.

I’m also delighted that Editions Stock, my French publishers have bought my fourth novel, Unsettled Ground – although I’ve yet to hear whether the title will be changed and what to.

If you live in Europe and you’d like the chance to win a signed copy of L’été des oranges amères, I’m running a give-away on my Instagram account. Just visit @writerclairefuller on Instagram for details of how to enter. The competition closes on 10th June. Good luck!

Free Zoom Literary Festival

On Friday 1st May (4pm UK time / 5pm French time) I’ll be appearing at LockDownLit, an online version of Festilitt, a wonderful French literary festival I appeared at (in real life) in 2017.

The event is free, you just need to click here and log on to Zoom at the correct time on Friday to join the audience. You can also email info@festilitt.com to join their mailing list to be informed about any future author appearances as part of the festival, and reminded about this one.

I’ll be interviewed by Kath Humphries about Bitter Orange, and there will be plenty of opportunity for questions from the audience.

Hope to see you there.

Backlisted Podcast: Journal of a Disappointed Man

A short while ago I was invited onto the award-winning podcast, Backlisted to discuss with the two presenters, Andy Miller and John Mitchinson, together with fellow guest William Atkins, The Journal of a Disappointed Man, and the episode has now gone live.

If you haven’t come across Backlisted before, it’s a discussion podcast about a book which deserves greater attention – often a book which has been forgotten from an author’s back-catalogue. It’s friendly, and chatty, and funny, and I have come across so many gems.

In fact, I discovered The Journal of a Disappointed Man through Backlisted a few years ago, and then here I am, on the podcast extolling the wonders of this journal.

The podcast will explain more about the book, and hopefully persuade you to find a copy and read it, but it is the journal of Bruce Cummings, starting at age 13, and continuing until his early death from MS. It’s sad, of course, but also incredibly funny and clever, and just very very readable.

So, have a listen, in fact have a listen to some of the other Backlisted episodes, and you might discover some new favourite books.

Claire’s and Tim’s Top Ten Books of 2019

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Here we are again, the end of another year of reading. More bookshelves built, more books bought, borrowed and lent. This year, as well as the bookshelves, Tim216 Aug 04 built me a free little library so that I can swap books with my neighbours and anyone who happens to come past. These are springing up all over the world and you can find the locations of many of them here.

This is the fifth year that Tim and I have been tracking our books and coming up with a list of our ten favourites of the year (read, rather than published). You can see previous lists here: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.

Some facts and figures about my list, compiled from the 94 books I read this year:

  • Five female authors, five male (of the 94, 63 were by female authors)
  • Three books published this year
  • Earliest was first published in 1919
  • One book not published until next year
  • One book in translation
  • One book of short stories
  • Seven books set in the USA; one in the Netherlands; two in England
  • One non-fiction book

UPDATE: Please buy books from independent bookshops. 
During the coronavirus outbreak independent bookshops need you to buy books from them, rather than that large online store that everyone knows. Most independents have an online presence, or if not will take orders over the phone or by email. If we don’t buy from them now (or at least shops with physical stores), then they won’t be able to reopen when all this is over.

If you don’t know any independents, I’m listing one per country below, or you can use bookshop.org in the US, or hive.co.uk in the UK to find / buy from independents. Although it is still best to go to the shop directly. If you can recommend an independent bookshop which will deliver in your country, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

US: Literati Bookstore
UK: The Aldeburgh Bookshop

My Best Reads of 2019

Top three (in no order)

Halibut on the Moon by David Vann

HalibutontheMoonThis is a tough but brilliant read. Vann has returned to the story of his father, this time as a complete novel covering a few days when Jim sees a therapist, and with his brother, visits various relatives and friends. We follow Jim’s most intimate thoughts, and can only watch his self destructive actions as he contemplates suicide. The story is agonising, the writing expressively perfect.

 

Mrs Bridge by  Evan S. Connell


MrsbMrs Bridge was Evan S. Connell’s debut, and it’s so damn good. Over the course of 117 chapters (some as short as a paragraph), we follow Mrs Bridge as she goes about her day-to-day life as a housewife and mother in 1930s Kansas City. She’s been brought up in a certain way, and wants to bring her children up in that way too. She can be bigoted and racist, but she knows this isn’t right, and yet she can’t seem to work out how to break out of her narrow boring existence of the country-club circle. Oh, and the ending is superb. I might be reading this again in 2020.

 

The Journal of a Disappointed Man by W.N.P. Barbellion

Journal 2I can’t remember the last time I underlined as many lines, as in The Journal of a Disappointed Man, or laughed as much, or cried. Actually cried, quiet rolling tears, while my husband slept beside me in bed.
This journal starts in 1903 when Barbellion (a pen-name) is 13 and wants desperately to be a naturalist (the journal is full of wonderful descriptions of nature), but has to follow his father and become a local journalist. Still, he is determined, and despite ill-health and being completely self-educated takes an exam and gets a job at The Natural History Museum in London (unfortunately, and rather amusingly the job he is given is to measure the legs on lice). He becomes increasingly ill, but (after much indecision) marries and has a child. All the while recounting his illness, and his thoughts on life and death. Eventually, while still in his twenties, he learns he has multiple sclerosis, only because he opens a letter from his doctor that was not addressed to him. He worries about money, and how his wife and child will manage, but he lives to see his journal published. He dies age 31.
So it is desperately sad, but W.N.P (or Bruce) is funny, and clever, and witty, and thoughtful, and despairing. 2019 marks 100 years since his death, and yet he seems so very real and close. (I came across this book via the Backlisted Podcast. Check it out.)

The Best of the Rest

 

Sleepless Night by Margriet De Moor (translated by David Doherty)

SleeplessThis novel is a subtle, enigmatic and beautiful elegy to a husband and marriage that ends in tragedy. De Moor’s writing is sensual and spare, whether she’s writing about love, a walk in an ice forest, or baking a cake in the middle of the night. There are layers of meaning here, which with adroit subtlety De Moor lets the reader puzzle out.

 


Valentine
by Elizabeth Wetmore

ValentineValentine – another debut – won’t be published until June 2020, and you should definitely look out for it. A wonderful cast of female characters are living in a small West Texas town in 1976 just as an oil boom hits. The terrible event that links them together is finely woven, the thread sometimes even disappears, but it’s the women’s and girl’s lives, their hardships, that kept me reading. Beautifully written, this novel and author surely is going to go far.

 

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

RabbitI’ve come very late to this modern classic, and at first I almost put the book down because I loathed Rabbit, the main character, so much. But I’ve always said I don’t mind reading about horrible characters and then anyway Updike’s writing won me over. Utterly.
At twenty-six, seemingly on a whim Rabbit deserts his wife and child, and hooks up with a young woman he lusts after while criticising her for accepting him. Everything gets messed up, of course. (Excuse the terrible cover – but it’s the edition I read.)

 

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

the dutch houseThis is the story of Maeve, as told by her younger brother, Danny. Before Danny can fully remember her, their mother leaves them in the care of their father who soon remarries. They live in the Dutch House – an ornate monstrosity with huge glass windows and all the furniture and belongings that a previous Dutch family left behind, and then they are forced to leave. For a while I kept waiting for something big to happen, but once I let that go, I completely fell for this book; fell in love with the family and Patchett’s writing.


Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
by Elizabeth Taylor

Mrs PalfreyThink of a funnier Barbara Pym and you’ll be halfway there with this novel. Mrs Palfrey goes to live at the Claremont Hotel in London in the 1960s, after her husband dies. The hotel is down at heel, as are many of the aging residents. Mrs Palfrey’s grandson doesn’t come to visit her . . . until he does. I laughed out loud many times, mostly at the spot-on observations of people and growing old. Highly recommended.

 

The Understory by Pamela Erens

the understoryThis is another debut, with wonderful lucid and understated writing. It tells the story of Jack an ex-lawyer who has been living illegally in his dead uncle’s apartment in New York for fourteen years. He has compulsive tendencies – visiting Brooklyn bridge every evening, a certain secondhand bookstore, and the same diner for lunch every day. When his new landlord wants to evict him, Jack meets and becomes obsessed with the architect employed to redesign his building. Each chapter alternates between this narrative and one from a few months on when Jack has left New York and is staying in a Buddhist monastery tending their bonsai trees (poorly). I loved it.

Jesus’s Son by Denis Johnson

JesusA perfect collection of short stories all with the same main character. ‘Fuckhead’ is in his early twenties and he’s a drug addict and alcoholic. And no, a series of stories about drug-fuelled craziness narrated by this kind of man wouldn’t normally interest me, either. But the free-wheeling mind-altered narratives are so fresh and scary, and sometimes even funny. Don’t be put off by the subject matter, just read it.

 

Tim’s Top Ten Reads of the Year

Tim’s Top Three (in no order)

  • Half Wild by Robin MacArthur (Tim says: Brilliant intertwined short stories set rural Vermont.)
  • Lila & Theron by Bill Schubart (Tim says: Weirdly, also set in rural Vermont, spanning most of the twentieth century, a small-scale epic story of love and hardship.)
  • Halibut on the Moon by David Vann (Tim says: The unflinching story of a man’s decline. Brutally honest and heartbreaking.)

Best of the Rest

  • Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
  • My Life as a Rat by Joyce Carol Oates
  • Mendocino and Other Stories by Ann Packer
  • In the Distance by Hernan Diaz
  • The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson
  • The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich
  • Turbulence by David Szalay

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Let me know what your top ten reads of the year were, and I’ll do a post about some of them at a later date.

 

Signed cards for Christmas

Christmas books final

 

Personalised cards for Christmas

If you buy a copy of one of my books as a gift for someone this Christmas, let me know and I’ll post you a signed card for free, to include with the book. If you buy more than one book, I’ll send you as many cards as you need.

I’m happy to post cards to anywhere in the world, just send me a message, telling me which book or books you’ve bought, who I should write the card for, and what your address is. Or if you want to treat yourself this Christmas and buy one of my books for yourself, I’ll send a card personalised for you.

And if you post a Christmas-y picture of the book or books you’ve bought on your main feed (not stories) in Instagram, I’ll include a little extra gift. Just make sure to mention this offer and tag me (@writerclairefuller) so I know you’ve done it.

Happy Christmas!

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Buy a copy of Bitter Orange, Swimming Lessons, or Our Endless Numbered Days.

(The small print: this offer is only for physical books – not ebooks or audio; please try to buy your book from a real bookshop, not Amazon; I’ll try to get cards to you in time for Christmas, but can’t guarantee it; this offer is not for copies of my books you have already bought for yourself.)

Bitter Orange Long Listed for Dublin Literary Award

Dublin lit award

I’m stunned and delighted that my third novel, Bitter Orange has been long listed for the Dublin Literary Award.

This prize is an unusual one. Firstly the books on the long list are nominated by libraries around the world. This year (for books published in 2018) 400 library systems in 177 countries were invited to vote for up to three novels. Which has resulted in a long list of 156 books – a lot of reading for the judges. Books must be in English, but can be translated.

Secondly, the prize is the largest single book prize at 100,000 Euros.

I’m really not expecting Bitter Orange to make it to the short list of up to ten titles which will be announced in April 2020. I’m simply delighted that my third novel was nominated.

Last year, the wonderful debut, Idaho by Emily Ruskovich won the prize – a novel I’ve been banging on about since I read it in 2016 and it made my list of best books that I read that year.

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Buy a copy of Bitter Orange.

Bitter Orange Paperback Published in the US today

US paperback

The paperback is published today (Oct 22) in the US. It has the same wonderful cover as the hardback, but with a cut-back cover to show a quote from Time Magazine: “Unsettling and eerie, Bitter Orange is an ideal chiller”.

Although the novel is set in the blisteringly hot August of 1969, the novel has plenty of spooky, gothic elements for people looking for a book to cosy up with in a chilly fall.

It’s available today from all good independent bookstores, bookstore chains, and online. Click here to order.

In conjunction with my US publisher Tin House, I’m running a competition on Instagram to win one of two copies. You must have a US address to enter. Visit my account on Instagram: @writerclairefuller

Bitter Orange is an ideal book for book clubs, and this paperback edition has book club questions in the back to help get your discussion started. 

If you do read it, don’t forget to drop me a line to let me know what you thought.

Happy reading!