BBC Radio 4

Society & Culture

Led by James Naughtie, a group of readers talk to acclaimed authors about their best-known novels


Jennifer Johnston

April 3rd, 2011

Episode 312 of 438 episodes

Recorded at the Verbal Arts Centre in Londonderry/City of Derry, James Naughtie and readers talk to one of Ireland's finest writers - Jennifer Johnston. Now in her eighties, Jennifer has been called 'The Quiet Woman' of Irish literature. Her distinguished career has spanned more than 40 years and has netted the Whitbread Prize among her many awards. Her books are taught on the Irish school curriculum and in American Universities. The chosen novel for this edition of Bookclub is one of her later ones, The Gingerbread Woman. Like many of her novels, this story deals with personal conflict, as two characters meet by chance one day on a cliff top overlooking Dublin Bay and form an uneasy friendship. Yet the conflict between these two mirrors a bigger question - the conflict between the North and South of Ireland. Jennifer Johnston is a writer who watches and listens. She's best known for her portrayal of different Irelands, notably the group called the Anglo-Irish, who appear in what became known as The Big House novels. More recently she has moved her protagonists out of the countryside and into the affluent suburbs. Jennifer grew up in a theatrical house - her father Denis was the leading playwright of his day and her mother Shelah an actress. Jennifer describes how her literary upbringing has resonated through her writing, and how much she enjoys writing dialogue. As always on Bookclub, a group of readers join the author in the discussion and James Naughtie chairs the programme. May's Bookclub choice : 'Be Near Me' by Andrew O'Hagan. Producer : Dymphna Flynn.

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