All items: France

When Sue Roe decided to write a group biography about the French Impressionists, she little realised what a challenge it would be, involving her in hundreds of hours of research and cross-checking of information about her ten famous subjects; she was inspired to visit the places where they lived and worked.

Lucy Moore speaks with James McConnachie about prominent political women in the French Revolution, her study of the lives of some controversial maharanis, and the value of detail such as dress in recreating the past.

As the author of four books of memoir, Rosemary Bailey found herself engaging with the lives of a diverse range of people: from the inhabitants of her late brother’s Yorkshire parish to those of the Pyrenean village where she and her family lived. From these encounters came friendships, but also occasional fallings-out, all of which was wonderful material for her writing.
In researching her biography of the artist Gwen John, Sue Roe sifted through hundreds of letters and notebooks, in archives held in Aberystwyth, Paris and New York. From these, she came to know a very different woman from the fragile recluse of popular myth.
Can a British or Irish playwright ever escape the influence of Samuel Beckett? Brian McAvera reveals why he put Beckett on stage as a vampire and ventriloquist’s dummy, and explains how it all stems from those troubled questions of British and Irish identity – questions that Beckett, like so many writers, tried to escape by becoming a European.

James McConnachie speaks with Julia Copus about the plight of non-fiction books in an internet age, his travel writing adventures and the joy of (writing about) sex.

For four years, the poet Pascale Petit watched a black jaguar in a Parisian zoo. He became her heart of Amazonia darkness, her shaman, her father, her obsessional love. Then he was introduced to a potential mate.
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