Adam Thorpe is a marvel among contemporary British novelists, and we are lucky to have him.
(Ian Thompson The Independent May 25 2007)
Adam Thorpe was born in Paris in 1956 and grew up in India, Cameroon and England. After graduating from Oxford, in 1979, he started a theatre company and toured villages and schools before teaching Drama and English Literature in London. His first collection of poetry, Mornings in the Baltic (1988), was shortlisted for the 1988 Whitbread Poetry Award.
Thorpe’s first novel, Ulverton (1992), was published to great critical acclaim and won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize in 1992. A fictional and linguistic tour-de-force, the novel takes us chronologically through 350 years in the history of a village. Twelve loosely-connected narratives by different voices use various techniques, including a diary and a contemporary film script: a clergyman, a farmer, an aristocratic wife, an illiterate mother, rebellious agricultural workers, and a woman photographer in 1859 are some of those who express their hopes and fears, rant and reminisce to take us through the centuries in a thoughtful reflection on time and change.
The Sunday Times reviewer said:
From its first page, you’re aware that you are in the presence of a writer with exceptional gifts. By the final one, you know he has used them to create a masterpiece.
Discussing the strain of waiting for the Booker shortlist to be published, this year’s winner Hilary Mantel told The Guardian:
…when Adam Thorpe’s Ulverton was omitted in 1992, I cried, because if Ulverton wasn’t good enough, I couldn’t think what you’d have to do.
The marvellous thing about the novels of Adam Thorpe is that they are all so different – No Telling is set in 1968, in the Parisian suburbs and narrated by a twelve-year old boy from a deeply dysfunctional family. The Rules of Perspective ponders art and war. The Standing Pool turns to social comedy mingled with narrative suspense as two dissatisfied Cambridge academics take a sabbatical in France. Hodd revisits the legend of Robin Hood.
Between Each Breath defies definition as it moves between London and Estonia in the years 1999-2005: it is a political satire, a moving story of love and betrayal, a hilarious portrait of middle-class Britain, a discussion of modern music, an examination of social and emotional betrayal…..
It is also melodramatic in parts and several characters are stereotypes. Jack Middleton, the central character is by no means sympathetic and yet we keep on reading his story. Ian Sansom wrote in the Telegraph:
So here’s the thing: I didn’t like Jack Middleton; the reader is clearly not intended to like Jack Middleton………..The plot is occasionally absurd and superfluous. And yet the book moved me so much that the denouement made me cry.
Tim Martin, in the Independent on Sunday, called it:
a hugely enjoyable book by a writer at the top of his game who’s demonstrably still having great fun doing what he does. Long may that continue.
Pieces of Light (1998)
No Telling (2003)
The Rules of Perspective (2005)
Between Each Breath (2007)
The Standing Pool (2008)
Mornings in the Baltic(poems) (1988)
Meeting Montaigne (poems) (1990)
From the Neanderthal (poems) (1999)
Nine Lessons from the Dark (poems) (2003)
Is This The Way You Said? (2006)
Birds with a Broken Wing (poems) (2007)