Fringe by the Sea: Maggie O'Farrell

Thursday, July 28, 2011



You can find lots of useful information about Maggie O'Farrell here. Awards she's won, authors she admires, rave reviews, et cetera. But I'm not in the business of useful information. I'm in the business of random fascinating  factoids. As follows.

She's from North Berwick, as all the best people are.

 She has amazing hair. (Why am I so obsessed with curly ginger hair??)

 Her first book made me cry. Proper, gutteral, wonderful sobs.

 Her inspirational, life-changing high school English teacher once said to her, "One thing I hope you'll never have to find out is that a broken heart hurts physically." Isn't that poetic? Some years later, when that same bespectacled, betweeded, deceptively poetic teacher asked me what books I'd read recently, I said I'd just finished a novel by Maggie O'Farrell. How strange that must have been for him, and how encouraging.



 Her writing is intoxicating. Behold:
The feathers, piled up to reach her ears, were the sleek, oiled black-green of a starling's throat. At the centre of the boa, where they were woven into some invisible cord, they were gossamer soft before frothing out into the firm, spiky feathers with hooked filaments that caressed her cheeks like blades. Alice had never seen anything so beautiful and she had never wanted anything so badly: it made her weak with longing, the will to possess this thing. Why did her grandmother have it? Why had she never seen it before? Where had Elspeth worn it and would she let her have it?
Alice had stood for a few moments in front of her mirror, her fingertips stroking the outermost feathers. Then she had picked up the cardigan Elspeth had wanted and gone downstairs, the end of the feather boa trailing down her back like the tail of a sea monster. 
(From After You'd Gone, p171)
See? Delicious.

 My mum knows her mum. (See: being from North Berwick. There's a line in O'Farrell's first book about not being able to skive off school there, because within ten minutes your mum will have heard about it from four separate sources. This is horribly true.)

 She inspires me the way that that high school English teacher never did. And not only in the hair stakes.

 Most importantly, she will be appearing at Fringe by the Sea on Wednesday 11 August at 3.30pm. I'll be there, clutching my collection of Maggie O'Farrell books and gibbering senselessly at her until I have to be led gently away by a volunteer. Oh, wait, I am a volunteer. This could get messy...

Visit Fringe by the Sea for full details of the whole shebang and to buy tickets.


Images: 1. Maggie O'Farrell by Ben Gold 2. Marco Walker via Dazed Digital 

9 boats moored

  1. *Sigh* I'm very jealous, she is one of my favourite authors - the kind that once discovered you have to go off and read all their books.

    I also sobbed and sobbed when I read 'after you'd gone'

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  2. I LOVE Maggie O'Farrell - and I also sobbed reading "After You'd Gone". It's one of my favourite books and my copy has that lovely well-read feeling to it now.
    I'm very envious - if it wasn't on the same day as my birthday, and if it didn't cost so much to get up to Scotland at such late notice, I'd be there with bells on. When we were in North Berwick in May I was very excited precisely because of O'Farrell's connection with the place. Which is rather sad.
    Fringe by the Sea sounds fabulous. I might have to point my actor/comedian husband & his writing/acting partner your way next year...
    x

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  3. That's amazing, I can't believe she's from the same town as you.

    I actually first discovered the concept of journalism school through reading (and sobbing like a baby at) that first novel of hers. And I adored her last book. If I wasn't on the other side of the Atlantic right now, I'd be considering a trip north on August 11th....

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  4. Don't shout at me but I've never heard of her. I want to buy that novel right now and savour every last word, she sounds like a genius. I love the connection you feel to her, I'm sure she'll love to meet you. Just act normal Kirsty. Normal, ok?

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  5. Another fully fledged member of the Maggie O'Farrell appreciation club here! Love her writing. In fact, I might even start re-reading them from the beginning. Anyone recommend any other authors of a similar style?

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  6. That passage sold me. Added her to my to-read section on goodreads. Yay for new books!

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  7. Excited to hear I'm not the only member of the I ♥ Maggie club, but even more excited that Lucy and Genevieve are joining up! You won't regret it.

    Pip, I will have a think of other authors - I have fallen badly out of the reading habit recently so I need to dust off my brain a bit.

    Oh and Emma - yes, please do!

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  8. Ah, you'll have to ask Maggie herself for some recommendations! I've been sucked into the Scandinavian crime thrillers of late - a world away from Ms O'Farrell's work...

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  9. I am duly chastised.

    (and yes, AMAAZING hair)

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