It is the job of the novelist to lend eyes to the reader. One of the things that sets the really great book above the merely good is the clarity and intensity of the author's vision. It was this quality that struck me when I first came across the Ghosts of Eden by Andrew Sharp.
That was several years ago. It was then a manuscript being read out at a writing workshop. Since then it has been shaped and honed. And last night the process reached its fruition with publication by Picnic Books, marked by a splendid launch party.
The Ghosts of Eden takes place in East Africa and follows characters from different backgrounds who find themselves dislocated by changes in place and time. Like all great fiction it leads us along the individual narratives of its cast and thereby prompts us to ask questions about ourselves and the general condition.
I'll admit to bias here. I know the author and have seen the book emerge. But doing my best to see through all that, I still give you a strong recommendation to read it. If you follow my advice and hate it, feel free to write a complaint here. I don't think many of you will. (I'd also suggest it as a good book group book as there is much in it to discuss.)
The perfect attendance at an event is a number great enough to fill all the chairs in the hall and leave a scattering of people still standing around the back and sides. (People don't really mind standing for a few minutes and the event feels special when you have to squeeze in.) Happily that was exactly the number who attended Andrew's launch. Many of them were writers. There were also members of Andrew's family and many of his work colleagues. Leicester Writers' Club has hosted talks by the likes of Colin Dexter and Jacqueline Wilson, but I have never witnessed such a long queue to get books signed as I saw last night. Andrew must have had writers' cramp by the time he got through them all.
After the signing we were also treated to an insightful talk by Corinne Souza, Andrew's editor at Picnic. I've often heard editors and agents say that they cannot take on a book unless they feel passionate about it. That passion was clear and evident from Corinne's comments about the Ghosts of Eden. It warmed my heart to hear an editor speak this way. (And I guess the hearts of the other writers present).
Corinne is clearly a big-picture thinker and had things to say about the publishing industry. I found her insights fresh and stimulating. But I'll leave that and related issues to another post. I will also be posting photographs of the event as soon as I have sorted through them.
You can find a one week blog by Andrew Sharp on the Picnic Books website here.