Wonderful news! Susanna Clarke has won the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel, Piranesi. And as a result, in a rare, uplifting moment, Twitter’s What’s Happening section reveals that Susanna Clarke is trending in the UK (as of 6:45am on the 9th September, 2021):
When I first read Susanna’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell back in 2005 whilst on holiday exploring the beautiful villages of Tuscany in Italy, I knew I was reading something rather special. JS&MN did something that no other novel could do – combine historical drama, humour, fantasy and a potentially unhealthy number of footnotes into a book – of a not insignificant size – into a rapid page-turner.
It was so good, in fact, that I was rather disappointed there wasn’t much information or discussion of the book on the internet. So I created a website/blog called The Friends of English Magic to provide news/updates and discussion on the book and the upcoming movie (which transformed into a TV mini-series, something that the story greatly benefitted from).
The Friends of English Magic (or FoEM for short) did pretty well, and having reached out to Susanna’s agents at Curtis Brown for permission to use the name, leading to getting in contact with Susanna’s partner/husband Colin Greenland who was extremely kind and generous in helping with information and even sent over a few wonderful gifts such as a signed copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and signed copies of his own science fiction novel series (The Plenty) starting with Take Back Plenty (I thoroughly enjoyed the whole series), and even a mystery package which is meant to be a proof copy of JS&MN:
FoEM continued onwards and started to cover other books such as Neil Gaiman’s Stardust (including the Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess illustrated edition, and it’s thanks to Charles that I got to see a private screening of Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn’s film adaptation of Stardust). And thanks to Colin, again, that I got to interview Jane Goldman on the adaptation. I also interviewed Susanna when Bloomsbury released The Ladies of Grace Adieu. FoEM closely followed the developments of the movie (I even managed to get hold of Ileen Maisel who had left New Line to start her own production company, but alas wasn’t able to get anything useful from her) up through to it being announced that was being adapted by Peter Harness (whom I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with and meeting in person) for the BBC.
Alas, due to work and personal commitments I had to cease working on FoEM – but it still exists, to a degree, through this blog. I’ve kept the interviews somewhere and will always attempt to keep them online somewhere at my own cost (I despise ads as much as everybody else).
As for Piranesi itself, I haven’t actually read it yet! I know – it’s mad – but the past few years have been bonkers. Work has never been busier and as I get older I find looking at more text after a day’s looking at text on a screen to be a bit much. I am a member of Audible and indeed own a copy of Piranesi – but my sleep patterns over the pandemic have been erratic, to say the least. I would like nothing more than to be able to sit down and listen to an audiobook – or to read again.
In fact, Piranesi is the first physical book I’ve bought in about 5 years. And I’ve bought three copies – two paperbacks (one signed) and one in Kindle format.
But I will make an honest attempt to start reading Piranesi soon, and when I do, I’m sure I’ll finish it even more quickly and love it just as much, if not more, than JS&MN.
Congratulations to Susanna, Colin, and the teams at Curtis Brown and Bloomsbury Publishing. Such remarkable, talented people and I couldn’t be happier about this win.
Also: this Waterstones presentation – truly remarkable: