An extract from AL Kennedy's new novel, The Blue Bookby AL Kennedy / July 20, 2011 / Leave a comment
Born in Dundee in 1965, AL Kennedy published her first book, a collection of short stories, in 1990. A number of works followed, including Day, a dark novel about war, conscience and memory narrated by a former RAF pilot, which won the 2007 Costa Book of the Year award.
Her distinctive, often sardonic fiction and three books of non-fiction have earned her a reputation as one of Britain’s most versatile writers. In her new novel, The Blue Book, the two central characters, Arthur and Elizabeth, have worked as fake mediums, dishonestly assuaging others’ grief at the loss of their loved ones. The opening of the book, from which this extract is taken, focuses on Arthur’s own pain in being removed from his boyhood island idyll.
Kennedy says she has long been fascinated by the ways in which people use language to influence each other: “The protagonists are certainly involved in deception on a number of levels, and hopefully there is an element of magic about it all.”
This boy, he is deep in the summer of 1974 and by himself and cutting up sharp from a curve in the road and climbing a haphazard, wriggling style and next he is over and on to the meadow, his purpose already set.
No, not a meadow: only scrub grass and some nettles, their greens faded by a long, demanding summer and pale dust.
So it’s simply a field, then—not quite who it was in its spring.
A ?eld with an almost teenager live inside it.
He is, taken altogether, a taut thing and a sprung thing, free and also rattled with being free, and there is no particular path across this ?eld, but the boy knows his way and heads for its most distant border. Hands quick, feet quicker, plimsolls and a washed-out yellow shirt, shorts that are greyish and fawnish, that have a torn pocket at the back. His clothes are too small and yet also slack in a way that suggests he is both longer and leaner than when they were bought. He is running as if pursued.
Ahead of him, the air shrugs with afternoon heat, distorts—he likes this. He mainly likes uncertain and changeable things—they seem to offer more chances for comfort, success. And sometimes they’re all that he gets so he has to make the best of them.
His footfalls jar, drum, as he…