Birmingham Literature Festival: Spring Edition

Luke Kennard reading from 'The Transition' 

Luke Kennard reading from 'The Transition' 

Luke Kennard is mercurial.

The man talks at a million miles an hour and his synapses spark at an alarming rate.

Having been dubbed an 'overachieving poet' (The Guardian, for youngest Forward Prize recipient etc etc) he has just published his debut novel The Transition - a near-future dystopia tackling the housing crisis.

He talked about it on the opening day of Birmingham Literature Festival and the conversation was pacy and revelatory, especially on the pressing issue (for writers, anyway) of how to approach dystopia when living in one.

His book should be discussed more widely. It takes on capitalism, home ownership, and the plight of a generation sorely in need of solutions.

Of course, being a novel of the times, there are no solutions, but along the way Kennard combines humour and pathos to carve out a striking exploration of our current preoccupations.

It's also a touching love story.

Do read 'The Transition' if you want a fresh take on a rapidly expanding genre.

What I'm reading...

This is the first book I finished in 2017, and I loved it. My Name is Lucy Barton makes you think about family, about the past, and about memory.

Elizabeth Strout dispenses with sentimentality, preferring a quiet yet luminous voice to tell the story of Lucy Barton, who, having fallen gravely ill, is reunited with her estranged mother in a hospital room. Over the course of several nights, the pair talk more than they may have done in their entire relationship. The beauty of this story, told from some point in the future, is that though much is explored, not everything is resolved. 

Strout handles deprivation, both emotional and material, and the complexities of family bonds with deftness. The reader is allowed room to fully consider the impact of a bad start in life on the protagonist. 

There are also some beautiful insights on writing and the writing life, as Lucy Barton is taking the first steps towards becoming a successful author.