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Saturday, 21 September 2013


I was born twice. So begins Jamrach's Menagerie written by Lancaster author Carol Birch - an exceptional novel which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2011.  It's a brilliant beginning to a beautifully written book that had me turning the pages almost faster than I could read.


Described by the Mail on Sunday as 'Moby Dick, Treasure Island and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner...with a pinch of Dickens all in one pot,' this is an epic story full of beautiful if graphic imagery.

Carol, author of eleven novels, was guest speaker at  a highly successful Writers' Day organised by   the Lancashire Word at Astley Hall Chorley this weekend. She gave an amazingly honest and entertaining account of her somewhat tortuous rise to fame. 'There were times when I wanted to give up writing,' she said, 'to earn what people call a proper living, but something made me carry on.'

The book's hero, Jaffy Brown, is eight years old when the book opens and destined to live his life in the slums of Victorian London.  A chance encounter with 'the magnetic Mr Jamrach'  sends him off on a ship bound for the Indian Ocean and more adventure than anyone could possibly expect in an entire lifetime.  Some of the writing is fantasy, some of it is gruesome, but every word has been carefully chosen to heighten all the senses.
Today's event, described as  'One Day in Lancashire to celebrate good writing' included talks by fiction and non-fiction writers Zoe Lambert and Peter Moore,  as well as book designers Ned Hoste and Ed  Christiano.

It was a brilliant chance to mix with fellow writers, meet old friends and, of course, make some new ones. Special thanks go to Alan Whelan, Tim Gavell, AJ Noon, John Rutter, Jon Poutney, Heather Carey and Jane Brunnin for organising the event.You can find out more about The Lancashire Word on



Another Guernseyman said...

Sounds like my sort of book - a sort of modern-day Toilers of the Sea!

Guernsey Girl said...

I'm sure Carol Birch would be delighted to be compared with Victor Hugo - thanks for your comment Another Guernseyman!