Monday, 7 June 2010

Follow a Shadow

The glimpses continue, and will not necessarily appear in chronological order - and readers may have to wait for the reportage...



Robert Swindells was in conversation with Sally McDonald, Chair of Membership, on Saturday morning. He has twice won the Children's Book Award, as well as the Carnegie Medal for his novel Stone Cold. He was at the annual weekend to read from and to speak about Follow a Shadow, which was first published in 1989 and which has just been issued again by Five Leaves Publications.


He tried to retire recently, he told us, but it didn't work: he just sloped around the house for a couple of weeks before returning to writing, though he is touchy about 'returning to the circuit'. This means he is not sure whether he could stand the adulation of a myriad secondary school English teachers, who have over the years found that reading from his novels is just the thing "for a class of fourteen year-olds on a Wednesday afternoon" in the words of Sally McDonald, who met classes of fourteen year-olds in need of motivation when she was a secondary school teacher.


Follow a Shadow is about young Tim, who is studying Jane Eyre at school and who is taken to the Parsonage on a group visit. He bears a remarkable resemblance to Branwell, he discovers. In the novel, Swindells speculates on what Branwell did in London in 1835, when he was eighteen, when he was supposed to have sought admittance to the Royal Academy Schools as a student. No record exists in the Royal Academy archives of his ever having shown his specimen drawings there, and according to Juliet Barker, he didn't actually make the trip at all. She hadn't written that when Swindells was writing though, so we should fantasise that he did...


The audience fell about laughing when he read extracts. This stuff still works! It would work for modern secondary school students too, if English teachers were allowed to wander from the officially prescribed path and simply inculcate a love of reading and literature. 


ISBN 9 781905 512867

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