Posted on 19th October 2010

By Karen McLeod, Novelist

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Fiction Uncovered by… Karen McLeod, novelist

Julia Darling died five years ago from breast cancer at the age of forty-eight. A poet, playwright, novelist and singer she certainly fitted a lot into her short life. Her debut novel, Crocodile Soup (1998), was the reason I began to write seriously. When you read a novel sound enough that you enter it completely, when an author wows you so that you are hanging on her every word, going over sentences and word combinations trying to find out how, how could words possibly do that, you know you’re onto something special. There was no choice of career for me after this; I carried the book in my bag for months as proof of what writing could be like, and hoped that it would rub against my notebook and create a small fire.

Just look at this line: ‘The day I got my mother’s letter it was autumn and the air was thick with the fumes of sparklers and the breath of nervous dogs.’ The thick air, the breath of not just dogs, but nervous dogs; everything is so compact yet shimmers. Julia’s life rests in the detail, still. 

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