"The traditional rural way of life has thinned out"

Author Adam Thorpe speaks to Jane Hanks about French country life and the expat experience 

Adam Thorpe is a critically acclaimed writer. His first novel Ulverton, which is about the reality of harsh rural life through the ages in a fictional Berkshire village, was nominated for the Booker Prize and won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize. It was described by writer John Fowles in The Guardian as “the most interesting novel I have read these last years… Suddenly English lives again”.

Hilary Mantel has said of him that he is a writer’s writer: “There is no contemporary I admire more than Adam Thorpe.” His last novel, Missing Fay, was a Guardian and Sunday Times Book of the year in 2017.

He has mostly written his eleven novels, poetry and short story collections and two non-fiction books from his home in the Cévennes. He has lived there for the past twenty-eight years with his wife and three children, who grew up and went to school in France.

Three books are about being in France. No Telling is about a French schoolboy’s experience of May 68. The Standing Pool is a dark thriller about two Cambridge academics who take a sabbatical in a remote Languedoc farmhouse and their dreams of a rural paradise turn into a nightmare.

His latest book, published this month, Notes from the Cévennes; Half a Lifetime in Provincial France, recounts his impressions of the land he has come to call home, written in his perceptive and poetic style. He talked to Connexion about his new book and love of the Cévennes:

Why did you come to France and why the Cévennes?

I took a sabbatical year to finish my first novel, Ulverton. I have to be political here, we had got fed up with Margaret Thatcher and it is a bit like now really, grim news after grim news. I was born in Paris and I think there was a native pull somewhere there because the first three years of my life were French.

We had two very small boys, my daughter was not yet born, ...

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