April & May 2015
The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters will be published in paperback by Bloomsbury on June 18th 2015, with a brand new cover. At the same time Bloomsbury will be re-launching her previous novels in paperback, also with new covers:
On June 20th, Michelle Lovric will be giving a talk about the Harristown Sisters at the Aman Hotel, also known as Palazzo Papadopoli, where the sisters live during their sojourn in Venice.
Michelle Lovric is judging a creative writing competition for The Royal Society for Literature. The subject is ‘The Unfamiliar’, and the competition is for students at Kings College London, where Michelle is one of the Royal Literary Fund Fellows at the Graduate School.
The prize is an opportunity to win a place on their forthcoming creative writing masterclass - Writing the Unfamiliar - with Kamila Shamsie. Taking place in Somerset House on 11th April, 10.30am, this class considers how to make the unfamiliar familiar enough to write about – with particular reference to place and time period. Further details of the class can be found on the RSL website here.
The Washbrook Book Club, led by Eila Huxford, met at Michelle Lovric’s London home on February 13th to discuss The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters. Among matters discussed were the interesting names of the eponymous sisters, the Irish and Venetian settings of the book, and also the close friendships between writers, particularly among the blogging cooperative, The History Girls, including Laurie Graham, whose work is much admired by the Washbrook Book Club. At left, Michelle Lovric thanks Eila Huxford for her marvellous and penetrating questions about The Harristown Sisters.
This wonderful video of Venice in the 1940s shows a city of children, in pairs, in lines led by nuns, in boats, climbing mysterious staircases. There is no trace of the war though perhaps the wistfulness alludes to the Jewish children who were deported, to their deaths.
Two new books about Venice have been published by The San Marco Press:
Byron - Venice, An English Milord in Europe and Italy is by Anne Amison, intimate account of the poet. The author has drawn on original correspondence and, as she puts it, ‘shoe leather. She comments in her note on the sources that she has walked the city, visiting all of Byron’s haunts. ‘In short, if a location is mentioned in the text, I’ve done my best to visit it: my partner once remarked that if Byron were alive today he would take out a restraining order on me.’
Venezia e’ una regatta is edited by Maurizio Crovato, with a wonderful preface by Venetian writer Tiziano Scarpa. This book traces the regattas of the lagoon, boat by boat, month by month, island by island.
Michelle posted a piece about the mysterious nature of sea horses for The History Girls blog on February 10th.
And on March 10th, she wrote about the strange case of the missing pier gates from Mr Roots’s horse hospital in London. The blog received many comments and has been referred to the Conservation Officer in Southwark.
April and May books
Karen Maitland, Company of Liars
February & March 2015
Bloomsbury’s UK cover for The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters made it into The Huffington Post’s top 20 covers for 2014
On June 20th, Michelle Lovric will give an illustrated talk about the book at Venice’s Aman Hotel (site of the Clooney nuptials and also the setting for the Venetian part of The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters.
Fleur in her World has given the book a lovely review
‘There are books that you love, and then there are books that lift you up, spin you around, and then drop you back to earth, dazzled. ‘The True and Splendid Adventures of the Harristown Sisters’ is one of those books; a captivating story packed full of full of characters, incidents and images.
There were seven Swiney sisters, and they were all blessed with fantastic rivers of hair, cascading below their knees and ranging in color from honey gold to copper red to the deepest black. Darcy, the eldest, was dark-haired and dark-hearted; twins Berenice and Enda bickered incessantly; Oona was gentle and fair; Pertilly was plain and Stolid; Ida was the youngest, a wild fairy queen; and flame-haired middle sister, Manticory, would tell all of their stories and the stories of them all.
The were all beautifully, richly and distinctively drawn, and each sister has her own role in the story that was to come ....
The telling of the story is sublime, the prose is gorgeously descriptive, somehow rich, poetic and earthy all at the same time. The settings are magically evoked, they live and breathe, and so many story strands - same that are predictable and some that are anything but - are woven together to make a glorious tapestry of a book.
There’s wit, there’s colour and there’s love threaded through what might otherwise have been a very dark story.
And at the centre of it all are those fascinating, infuriating sisters; they quarrel bitterly, they feud, they take sides against each other, but they also cling together and keep each others secrets. Such a wonderful portrayal of sisterhood! I loved watching them all interact, and their conversations were a joy.
I loved Manticory’s narration; I loved the way the story played out; I loved that there was a thread of feminism that was strained at the time but that never quite broke; I loved so many things ....
This story was inspired by the true story of the ‘Seven Sutherland Sisters,’ who were once household names in America, who used their locks to sell hair products, who found fame and fortune; and who at one time owned the grandest of mansions where they lived together ....
That story sounds fascinating, and really it couldn’t have inspired a finer fiction.
‘The True and Splendid Adventures of the Harristown Sisters’ more than lives up to its name; it pulled me into its world, it held me spell-bound, and I was so sorry when the story was over and I had to let go’
Fleur in her World, December 27th 2014
And there’s another one at Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices
‘This is a beautifully well written sensitive book! The descriptions are harsh, but accurate and the struggles of poverty and of being young unprotected women in a men’s world as described by Ms. Lovric is stripped of all romance. The story line is strong, the plot completely plausible and the pace is breathless and keeps you running page after page. There are lovely descriptions of Venice and the author lovingly details all its splendor and grandeur! But what really holds the book together is the characterization of the sisters; I have rarely ever come across an ensemble where the entire cast is so unique and glitteringly brilliant. Ms. Lovric infuses life, independence and exclusive personality to each of the sisters to make them stand apart from the other. Darcy is mean bully, Manticory the intellectual, Pertilly, the ugly one in a family of beauties, gentle Oona, the constant hatred of the twins and shy and sensitive Ida. As you follow the sisters through their rags to riches and then back to rags story, the reader is subjected the entire spectrum of sisterhood - hatred and love, envy and generosity and while they slowly fall under different influences, they also cling together in their tribaldom. You might not like all of them, you may not even relate to all of them, but you cannot, you simply cannot ignore any one of them. They jump out of the pages of the book and grip your imagination and stay with you even after you have long finished reading it!’
Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices January 5th 2015
The Washbrook Book Club will be reviewing The Harristown Sisters with Michelle Lovric in London on February 20th.
On the History Girls December 10th, Michelle Lovric blogged about how famous writers of history have named their cats.
And on January 10th she contributed a piece about a year in Venice to mark the achievements of the father of printing, Aldo Manuzio.
Her next post on the History Girls’ blog is on February 10th.
Sophia Toibin, The Silversmith’s Wife
December 2014 & January 2015
More Guardian Masterclasses on How to Write for Children, with Lucy Coats and Michelle Lovric:
Thursday 22 January 2015
Saturday 14 March 2015
Another review of those Harristown Sisters
This is such a fun book. Black as all hell, but fun nevertheless.
It tells the story of seven sisters with outlandish names (I particularly fell for Pertilly and Manticory) and even more outlandish hair which, in the age of Millais's Ophelia, makes them popular with men of a slightly grubby, fetishistic persuasion, a couple of whom see a business opportunity and proceed to exploit the poor backwoods girls mercilessly. They are not alone, however: demonic eldest sister, Darcy - who, in a surreal twist late in the book, actually becomes physically diabolical - is a stunning literary villain, and from the very beginning, the reader's heart aches for her comeuppance. But this is just one of the many strands, woven like a lustrous auburn plait into a complex plot, that urges you through Manticory's narrative to the explosive denouement.
The characters themselves are key here, and all fulfil their given roles beautifully … It has something to say (perhaps about the eternal exploitation of women, perhaps about society's worship of the physical and vacuous, perhaps about the complexity of familial and romantic relationships...) but is above all, a beautifully written (I love the slow crows and thin geese), right rollicking adventure through poverty to wealth and back again, from Ireland to Venice and back again.
If Christmas is starting to take up all your time, and you need a book that will transport you from mundane everyday nonsense without feeling like you are feasting on cotton wool, this is perfect. Enjoy.
Lulu, At night - my little lamp - and book November 2014
The Book of Human Skin caught this review from Threadbare Beauty
Transported me in time and space to an unfamiliar world where brothers are very very mean to sisters. In this patriarchal place, the female protagonist has to do her utmost to survive her brother’s bizarre tastes. This book is kind of like a Cronenberg flick….you hate to read the gruesome details, and you just can’t put it down.
On November 10th she was called away to a family emergency and her place was kindly taken by Sarah Gristwood blogging about the redoubtable Ellen Wilkinson
Michelle’s next History Girls blog will be on December 10th.
Artist Christine Morley has created an extraordinary mural for the 'Upupa' restaurant/pizzeria/bar in Campo del Ghetto Nuovo in Venice. The mural shows local characters from centuries past interacting with modern Venetians.
Jessie Burton, The Miniaturist
October & November 2014
Michelle Lovric is honoured to be appointed a Companion of the Guild of St George, established by the art historian and polymath John Ruskin in the 1870s. The Guild’s history, current projects and aims are described here. She hopes to take an active part in this wonderful organisation, and to make use of her writing and teaching skills, and her knowledge of Venice, for the benefit of the Guild.
Ruskin made this pencil and sepia sketch in 1870s -1, while studying the paintings of Vittore Carpaccio in the Scuola Dalmata in Venice.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
American reviews continue for the newly published American edition of The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters.
‘Their tale is just as scandalous as a contemporary Hollywood tell-all, but with the delicious villains, mysteries and grisly deaths of a 19th-century penny dreadful. Plus, it’s beautifully told, with a keen sense of the era and its locals plaited deftly into the drama.’’
Meredith Grahl Counts, BUST magazine August/September 2014
Morgan Ribera at Bustle named it as one of August 2014's Best Books:
“Michelle Lovric’s latest novel is a story all about hair — specifically long, cascading, floor-length hair. It stars the seven Harristown Sisters, all of whom have decadent heads of hair each in a different vivid shade. Impoverished, fatherless, and coming of age in the mid-1800s in a rural Ireland still suffering in the aftermath of the Great Famine, these seven sisters decide to use their flourishing follicles to change their luck, but with personalities as different as the color of their locks, their heads are bound to butt.
Together they become a talented, traveling celebrity septet, singing, jigging, and flashing their gorgeous, Rapunzel-like gifts to the delight of international admirers. From the dancehalls of Ireland to the lavish stages of Venice, their act will send them on a rollercoaster of wealth and fame, but these sisters will have to overcome their own differences and jealousies too in order to defend themselves against exploitation and obsession.
Rich with historic detail and inspired by the true story, Lovric’s imaginative new novel is an enchanting read, filled with adventure alongside lessons about glory, loss, and deceit, about financial hardship, sibling rivalry, and the consequences of celebrity. “
When Women Talks website named it as one of the seven best books published so far this year: “This is perfect for fans of historical fiction. Loosely based on a true story, it follows the lives of seven sisters with extraordinarily long hair, hair that leads them out of their poor existence in rural Ireland to the stage, riches and a palazzo in Venice. As well as being a great story, it also asks wider questions about female sexuality and experience, questions that are as relevant now as they were when this book was set.”
Mirella Patzer at The Historical Novel Review blogspot praised it:
‘It is a rags to riches to rags story that I found myself completely absorbed by. Each of the sisters was depicted with plenty of faults and qualities, which added to my interest in this fascinating tale. It is a roller coaster ride that takes the reader to joy, love, despair, and tragedy. This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it to book clubs as there is an avalanche of material that will lead to many a lively discussion. A lovely look into the odd and unusual lives of these fascinating women.’
‘Combining magical realism, just a hint of fairy tale lore and the real emotions of a group of sisters coming of age, Michelle Lovric’s The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters is a delightful, if sometimes dark, tale of love, family and loyalties … … It’s a funny fairy tale, with hints of Rushdie’s magic peeking through a mainly realistic prose and nods to the legacy and legend of Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude …and, if nothing else, exemplifies the perfect way to mix fairy tales and lore with the harsh realities of a nation’s, family’s and culture’s truths.
Corduroy Books August 19th 2014
‘Lovric does a marvelous job emulating the rhythm and slang of the Irish language, making The Harristown Sisters raucous reading. What begins as plausible fiction moves through operatic highs and lows and a fair bit of magical realism (Darcy’s physicality begins to mirror her black soul) before the novel winds down. Seven sisters and a career spanning decades is a lot of territory to cover but with Lovric’s imaginative touches, The Harristown Sisters is a lively Irish tale.’
The Gilmore Guide to Books, September 12th 2014
Back in the United Kingdom, reviews are still coming too:
“I want to mention the excellent descriptive writing in this book. Every time Manticory thinks of her childhood in Harristown, County Kildare, she remembers the ‘turf stoves, thin geese and slow crows’ until Harristown becomes almost a character in itself. Later in the book, the descriptions of Venice are particularly beautiful…
The palazzi and churches let their fretted stones hang down into our faces like beautiful, insistent ghosts. Beckoning lanterns hung at arched water-gates. Inside their houses, equisitely dressed Venetians displayed themselves in glowing tableaux so that each palace seemed to host a puppet theatre performing just for us. The city was mystical and barbaric all at once, a floating fortress so delicate that the fairies would hesitate to place the weight of their wings on it.
I also loved the images of the girls hanging their hair from the windows of the bell tower of San Vidal like seven Rapunzels and each of them standing in the bow of a gondola with her hair trailing into the boat behind. I could tell this book was written by someone who knows and loves Venice.”
Helen at She Reads Novels August 13th 2014
The Undrowned Child has received a lovely review as well:
A wonderfully surreal and at time subversive romp through a Victorian Venice awash with saucy-tongued mermaids, green poisonous icecream, malevolent seagulls and beetles, lurid pirates, shapeshifting cats and a hideous cannibalistic butcher, who carries his head under his arm in what could be a nod (pun intended) to Washington Irving. Teo is endearingly bookish, her friend Renzo is slight, scholarly and ultimately gallant, whilst the haughty, sometimes flirtatious mermaids are good fun. On a quest to stop the legendary historical traitor Bajamonte Tiepolo (try saying that when you’ve had a few ginger beers), Teo and Renzo hurry down the backstreets of a half-imaginary, half-real Venice, clutching a magical book that helps them at every turn. On the way they encounter mythical apothecaries stocking ‘Venetian Treacle’, plague-ridden children and sinister sculptures. All the while Bajamonte grows in strength, and threatens to have his bloody revenge on Venice once and for all…
All in all, I loved this book, and could hardly put it down! A rollicking, rambunctious read full of the salty tang of a Venice both real and wonderfully imagined. (And the mermaids are delightful.)
Overall rating: Whimsical, wonderful and at times highly inventive, Lovric has proven to me that she’s a writer to watch out for.
Eleanor Keane, The Breathing Ghosts, August 20th 2014
And How to Abuse, Insult & Insinuate in Classical Latin by Michelle Lovric and Nikiforos Doxiadis is highlighted at History of the Ancient World, which chooses the top ten insults from ancient Rome from it.
There’s a really excellent video here about how Venice works backstage, explaining the construction of the city and the problems she faces now.
George Clooney married in Venice on September 27th and his chosen hotel for his reception party was the Aman, aka the Palazzo Papadopoli, the Venetian setting of The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters.
A conference about water-cures in Venice is to be led by Nelli Elena Vanzan-Marchini.
Corso di Storia della Sanità 2014
VENEZIA E LA TALASSOTERAPIA
ATENEO VENETO Campo S. Fantin
lunedì 6 ottobre 2014 Aula Magna ore 17,30
introduce Erilde Terenzoni
Venezia e il termalismo europeo: una storia di bagni e di cure
conferenza con immagini
di Nelli Vanzan Marchini
WELLINGTON BOOKS, the English language bookshop in Venice, has just started a crowd-funding campaign.
Here is what they say:
‘The results of our (nearly) first year of activity are good and encouraging yet Italian bureaucracy is giving us some problems - we have been waiting for ages for special funds for young entrepreneurs which are still on their way…
For this reason we decided to start this campaign, just to be sure that we can strongly go on for another year even without the help of the Italian State.
We are not expecting to become rich, whatever we collect will be invested in the shop, as many other small bookstores have already done around the world.
If you are already a client of Wellington BooKs or if you don't fancy donating or if you don't like these crowdfunding initiatives that's fine - we will be very grateful if you could just SHARE this thing with your friends.
Here is the link to the campaign:
Michelle contributed to the History Girls blog on August 10th a list of murder weapons she has deployed in Venice
And on September 10th, she wrote about the ferocious patere that dot the walls of Venetian palaces, in a blog entitled What’s Biting Venice?
Her next post on the History Girls’ blog is October 10th.
She also contributed to Writers Read blog with a list of her recent reading and thoughts on it.
And she is preparing an interview with Society19 about The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters
October & November books
Sarah Salway, Digging Up Paradise: Potatoes, People and Poetry in the Garden of England
August & September 2014
Reviews continue to come in for The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, including this one from Oprah.com in the USA, where it is published this month.
“How do seven impoverished, fatherless sisters from rural Ireland with only middling artistic talents rise to notoriety? Darcy, the leader of the tribe, bullies her sisters into taking to the dance halls of their famine-stricken hometown, with hopes of striking it big. At the end of each show, the girls turn their backs to the audience and let down their hair, which cascades, unfettered, to their ankles. They soon become a hit act. "Our hair had its roots inside us, but it was outside as well," says Manticory, the lone redheaded sister and our narrator. "In that slippage between our inner and outer selves—there lurked our seven scintillating destinies and all our troubles besides." The novel is loosely based on a true-life group of American sisters who leveraged their hair to fame and fortune, and is cleverly set during a period when the Pre-Raphaelite style signified romance and freedom. Each of the seven sisters—insult-spitting Darcy, sweet Edna, tender Oona, wicked Berenice, plain Pertilly, spirited Ida, keen-eyed Manticory—will experience heartbreak and violence, even as their stars rise. Read this for the story, which is wildly compelling, and also for the prose, as magnetic as the sisters themselves.”
National Geographic listed The Harristown Sisters at top of the Ultimate Summer TripLit Reading List for novels that ‘take you there’:“Hair! The Swiney siblings have a lot of it in this fascinatingly odd tale, inspired by real-life sisters who gain fame and fortune for their ankle-length tresses in famine-plagued, Pre-Raphaelite-era Ireland.”
Amy Alipio, National Geographic, July 14th 2014
More reviews for the UK edition:
“Vividly descriptive, it’s an extraordinary book …”
Choice Magazine, July 1st 2014
“The fifth novel from Michelle Lovric – writer of The Remedy – is lined with a penetrating melancholic beauty.”
The Western Daily Press, June 28th 2014
Sunday Times reviewer Nick Rennison felt that the book was at times over-written but concluded that it “has a swagger and style that make it an enjoyable read.”
The Sunday Times June 29th 2014
Meanwhile, The Independent on Sunday named The Harristown Sisters as one of the best books of the year, in an alternative Man Booker List. Literary editor Katy Guest put the novel in the category of
“The Anne Enright award for the Irish novel most guaranteed to make you cry
Niall Williams wins this year's award on the strength of his title alone. History of the Rain (Bloomsbury) is described as a "rain-sodden history of 14 acres of the worst farming land in Ireland" but inevitably, given its author, it is suffused with warmth and humour.
As is The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, by Michelle Lovric (Bloomsbury), about seven Irish sisters in the mid-1800s, all of whom have extravagant, Pre-Raphaelite hair …”
The book was a Summer Holiday Pick for Annabel, one of the editors of Shiny New Books: “Michelle Lovric’s evocative prose weaves an addictive tale of unhinged sisters, celebrity, greed and, yes, hair in The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters”
‘Lovric puts her battling and embattled Swiney sisters into smaller and smaller corners, turning their tale into a full blown tragedy before it's all over. The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters is a dark tale, full of betrayal and unscrupulousness and pure creepiness. But I had a fantastic time reading it. Lovric's characters are so well-developed. Her plot overturns so many narrative conventions that I read with my iPad plugged into the wall for a few hours because I was running out of juice and I couldn't bear to leave off while it charged. I had to know what happened next. This is a brilliant, challenging novel.’
Annie Smith at The Summer Reading Project
“Michelle Lovric’s delightful novel, narrated by Manticory, follows the Swiney Godivas from Harristown to Dublin to Venice. I loved the descriptions of the Swiney Godivas’ shows, in which they re-enact fairy-tales, myths and biblical tales, form tableaux of famous works of art like Botticelli’s Venus and plunder the works of Dickens, Thackeray and even Shakespeare for ‘hairy’ scenes and heroines for ‘tribute’ acts. The theatrical scenes are spiced by the sisters’ animosity towards each other, the surreptitious pinching and shoving, the whispers of ‘brown bitch heifer’ through the staged smiles”
Helen Parry at Shiny New Books
Michelle Lovric was interviewed about the book by Sean Rocks for RTE’s Arena programme on July 1st and by Jenni Murray for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on July 24th.
With Lucy Coats, Michelle Lovric will be teaching a Guardian Master class on How to Write for Children on September 20th. There are further sessions planned for October and November.
Saturday 20 September 2014
Wednesday 22 October 2014
Saturday 22 November 2014
Michelle posted an interview with Simon Chaplin about the Wellcome Trust’s extraordinary image library on the History Girls on July 10th.
Her next post on the History Girls will be August 10th.
Her article about Medusa Myths appeared on Bookanista on July 5th
August & September books
Karen Joy Fowler, We All Completely Beside Ourselves
Harristown Sisters in the Gated Garden at London’s Borough Market
photograph by Meredith Crosbie
Reviews have been coming in for The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, published on June 5th by Bloomsbury in the UK. The American edition will be published in August.
It was the lead fiction review in The Times on Saturday June 7th
“This is story to sweep you up and spin you about like a mad Irish jig. It swirls you away amid giddy torrents of language into a fantastical, sensual, yet villainously comic world …
Lovric relishes language. You almost taste the words that twist round your tongue and burst open on your lips. Here are slanging matches in which curses are pelted like fistfuls of slime. Here are eddies of adjectives. Here are descriptions to reinvigorate even the most mundane scenes.
“Perhaps it is the rain forever scribbling on our roofs and our faces that teaches the Irish our unstinting verbosity,” says the auburn haired narrator Manticory. “ It’s what we have instead of food of luck. Think of it as a generosity of syllables, a wishful giving of words when we have nothing else to offer by way of hospitality: we lay great mouthfuls of language on you to round your bellies and comfort your thoughts like so many boileds and roasts.”
… the dark Freudian undercurrents of the fairytale are updated to deal with contemporary themes, among them the objectification of women and the right to privacy. As the compulsive power of her narrative increasingly overcomes the plangent mazes of her description, the reader finally realises that they are in the irresistible hands of a storyteller who portrays not just her period but human nature too.”
Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times, June 7th 2014
“Lovric’s tale is lush with delightful Irish rhythms and memorable characters.”
Kirkus June 5th 2014
“The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters is a book permeated by a malignant sadness. Lewis Wolpert coined the phrase in his 1999 book Malignant Sadness: The Anatomy of Depression. If not technically applicable, the phrase definitely captures the underlying mood of this novel. Joy and anything approaching happiness are only very sparsely, and sometimes perversely, peppered throughout the novel. The melancholic expression of the red-haired girl on the front cover should have given me a clue. Yet, not far from her face are those words ‘true and splendid’ — and thus the peculiar beauty of this novel is expressed: in her delineation of destitution, fame and death, Michelle Lovric writes a truly splendid novel.”
“Michelle Lovric’s darkly lively vocabulary and fantastical storytelling makes me feel I could tumble down a rabbit hole into another, not entirely nice, world. The Harristown Sisters is the tale of seven Irish siblings, heart-breakingly poor but all with a gift valued by the Pre-Raphaelite age they live in: extraordinarily long flowing hair. And so they are whisked away into dubious society and dangerous fame. Just love her humour and magical flamboyance.”
Kerry Fowler, Sainsbury’s Magazine, July 2014
“Sometimes, all you want from a book is fabulous escapism, a rich and detailed plot, unusual and memorable characters, larger than life but oddly real, a bit of a saga, a bit of a fantasy, a dash of historical realism, an edge of melodramatic soap opera, all tied up with excellent writing and a cracking pace.
Look no further, friends!
I’ve found this season’s pacy but gothic, horrifying but enthralling, joyful and mournful, grubby, edifying, modern but ‘olden days’ read. Michelle Lovric, The award-winning writer of The Book of Human Skin, has crafted something really beautiful and unusual in True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters.”
UBS Review of Books June 17th 2014
“… if you aren't nail-chewing within moments of the deliciously elongated climax starting to build, you have no nails to start with.”
Ani Johnson, The Bookbag, June 6, 2014
“I was a Michelle Lovric fan from the moment I started reading ‘The Book of Human Skin’. Amazing book that lives with me still – years after I first read it! So when I saw this book, I had to read it.
Was I disappointed? Not at all. The Swiney Godivas are quite simply wonderful …”
S.J. Bradford’s Book Blog June 4th 2014
Image Magazine in Ireland chose The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters as its book of the month, describing it as “an addictively subversive page-turner.”
“Michelle Lovric’s The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters is a book which almost appropriates the adjective ‘fecund’ to itself by way of description, so much does its language teem with rich, sappy, loamy, fruitfulness, even to a glorious abandon of excess …
This is a Gothic, operatic book by virtue of the intensity of feeling and opulence, sumptuousness of language, the reaching of heights of ecstasy, the plummeting the darkness of jealousy, violence, betrayal and murder. But the whole is delivered with such vivacity, such joyousness and juicy humour and playfulness of language that it becomes a wild, frolicsome read, despite the savage undercurrents.
And lest the term ‘Gothic’ should fret potential readers who might fear the pages may romp with werewolves vampires zombies and such other silly company – fear not, the ‘Gothic’ relates to the architecture of the language, full of delicious crenellations and furbelows. There ARE monsters within these pages, and they are all of a very human kind, with no need for the agency of magic.”
“My book of the year to date. It took my breath away ….”
Fleur in her World, June 10 2014
“The book’s rollicking, earthy voice evokes 19th-century Ireland with gusto, and Lovric brings the sisters and their tangled relationships to life as they come full circle to confront the poverty and losses from their past.”
Publishers Weekly, USA, June 10 2014
From the very beginning Lovric’s use of language is as colourful as her story; her descriptions of Venice and its palazzos are particularly lovely. Manticory’s voice is vibrant, intelligent, endearing and, at times, very funny … It’s a thoroughly entertaining tale in which love, lust, tragedy, comedy and revenge all play their part, and it ends very satisfyingly.
A Life in Books, June 22nd 2014
In Harper’s Bazaar July issue, Sam Baker named The Harristown Sisters as one of her top ten reads for the summer:
“An admission: I adored Michele Lovric’s macabre, Orange long-listed The Book of Human Skin. A second admission, I have a lot of red hair. These two things combined, I was always going to love The Harristown Sisters - singing, dancing septuplets who social-climb their way from poverty-stricken Dublin to Pre-Raphaelite Venice on the back of their auburn locks. But, as with the fairytale spirit Lovric so successfully conjures, nothing comes without a price.”
There’s a string of interesting reviews on Goodreads too.
Her next blog for The History Girls will be July 10th.
She posted on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure on June 11th about being caught in flagrante by an eminent publisher
Her piece on five literary landmarks in Venice was published on Wanderlust June 14th. These included the newly reopened medical museum at SS Giovanni e Paolo and the home of Pietro Aretino.
And her interview with Pam Johnson on Words Unlimited on June 16th discussed the ways in which she researches, organises and structures her work, certain regrets about giving up her work as a packager of designed books and the way in which she writes some novel scenes as poetry before smoothing them into prose.
Bookanista will feature an article she has written about hair and sex in the nineteenth century
Bookings are now open for the September 20th Guardian Masterclass on How to Write for Children with Lucy Coats and Michelle Lovric.
Joanne Harris, Gentlemen and Players
The True & Splendid History of The Harristown Sisters is published on June 5th by Bloomsbury in the UK. It comes out in August with Bloomsbury in the USA.
The publishers have created a wonderful Pinterest board about long hair and literature, to celebrate publication.
Some advance reviews
This is the riotous and true (!) tale of seven 19th-century sisters, who, with their help of their luscious long red locks, rose out of poverty in rural Ireland to become famous performers. Hooked from page one!
Company, June 2014
Lovric takes a little known piece of history and breathes it into full and colorful life. Impossible to put down.
On the History Girls, May 10th, Michelle Lovric posted a personal essay about Julia Pastrana, the woman with hair where hair should not be, and consequently one of the most celebrated freaks of the hair-obsessed Victorian age.
Author and wine-journalist Patricia Guy has hosted a photo-essay by her dog Stanley about accompanying Michelle Lovric on a writerly walk around Venice.
On May 25th, You Magazine, in The Mail on Sunday, published a feature by Michelle Lovric on the phenomenon of the Seven Sutherland Sisters, who took America by storm with their 37 feet of hair and their million-selling hair products. The Sutherlands are the inspiration behind The Harristown Sisters.
Michelle’s next History Girls post will be on June 10th. She will be writing about a shockingly poignant research trip to Ireland to hunt down a habitat for the Swiney Godivas, the singing and dancing siblings who are the protagonists of The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters.
She is interviewed by Mary Hoffman for the History Girls site on June 1.
She’ll also be guest blogging on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure on June 11th, about the embarrassment of being caught in flagrante delicto by an eminent publisher in a Venetian palazzo. ABBA was recently named number 2 in the top 10 list of literary blogs.
The June diary for English Writers in Italy is an essay by Michelle Lovric on a piece of floating history in Venice.
She has written a piece on Five Literary Landmarks in Venice for Wanderlust, to be published on June 7th
Meanwhile the excellent Venetian blogger Erla Zwingle has recorded the passing of Signor Baiamonte Tiepolo. His long-ago ancestor is the villain of Michelle Lovric’s first two books for children, The Undrowned Child and The Mourning Emporium.
Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
The Goodreads website has the first full review of The Harristown Sisters.
Here is an extract:
This book is a delight from page one. And nothing has ever made me want to visit Ireland so much as this book did. That's not a burn against Ireland. But there was such a vividness of description, that smell, language, dialect, culture, history, legend, lore leaped off the page at me. The story of seven sisters, their abundance of hair, and the trials and tribulations that come as a result of this could have been the stuff of fluffy lightweight melodrama.
But I do not exaggerate when I say that nothing I have read in contemporaneous fiction, comes as close to resembling a Bronte novel as this one does. I'm not going to say which Bronte as we all have our favourites and dislikes and I'm not planning on prejudicing you one way or the other. The fact that there were seven sisters alone who formed the core of the novel's characters presents challenges in differentiation, but each sister was such a personality and had such a unique voice.
I was constantly on the verge of weeping at how beautiful a grasp of language Michelle Lovric has. This book could have been written in the 19th century. Every sentence and paragraph feels carefully thought through but not at the expense of pushing the narrative forward. Turns of phrase stopped me in my tracks and had to be re-read. This isn't a case of style over substance. There is a complete harmony at work here. … If you're someone like me who laments that they don't write them like they used to, do yourself a favour and read this book.
Review by Anton, April 4th 2014
Essie Fox has published a review of The Book of Human Skin on her blog about writing.
I adore Michelle Lovric's writing style which is magical, flamboyant and entirely assured. Her YA novels are also a delight - if only we'd had them when I was a child! However The Book of Human Skin is decidedly not a children's read. It is fiercely dark and subversive, though not without great humour.
The central story is that of a Marcella, a young girl who is locked away in a convent when her brother, Minguillo (mesmerising and charismatic, but horribly evil too) begins his narration with the words 'This is going to be a little uncomfortable'. Indeed it is! And Marcella's suffering at his hands is narrated from the extravagant viewpoint of no less than five individuals who (apart from creating a sense of awe that any writer could pull that off) knit together a complex scheme of events that lead to a thrilling conclusion.
I particularly enjoyed this novel because the quite sinister convent scenes are set in Santa Catalina, in the Peruvian city of Arequipa, a convent which I have also toured, and found it to be an inspiring place with a melancholy, haunting air. I always thought I would like to set a novel of my own in that place. But having read Michelle's Lovric's work I couldn't even begin to compete. Delightful, horrific and riotous. A truly entertaining read.
(And while we are on the subject, should you enjoy this novel, Michelle Lovric's The Remedy is another based upon the convent theme.)
Review by Essie Fox, DO YOU DO THE WRITE THING? blog, April 1st 2014.
Essie’s atmospheric and lush Victorian novels, The Somnabulist, Elijah’s Mermaid and The Goddess and the Thief are published by Orion. She blogs as The Virtual Victorian, and her clever website is here.
Darren Hartwell at BOOKZONE (FOR BOYS) has written a heartfelt blog about the current media furore about gendering of the children’s book market. He cited Teo Gasperin, female protagonist of The Undrowned Child, as a character who could appeal to both boy and girl readers:
Michelle Lovric is not only one of my all time favourite writers of Middle Grade fantasy, she also writes fantastic female protagonists. Teo in The Undrowned Child, and its sequel The Mourning Emporium, is up there with Alice in my mind, but Talina (Talina in the Tower) and Amneris and Biri (The Fate in the Box) are almost as great.
Exhibition in Venice:
‘NOT TO BE USED FOR NAVIGATION’
22 May - 14 June 2014
Opening: 22 May 2014, 6-8pm
Impossible landscapes, routes and directions emerge from Deirdre Kelly’s 'altered' maps which are certainly ‘not to be used for navigation’.
Maps are tools that provide the means by which we both organize and locate ourselves within a continually changing world. Déirdre Kelly manipulates cartography to create her own personalised maps. Standing before these map collages, the viewer is both ‘found’ and ‘displaced’ in relation to pictorial worlds, as the overarching spatial rules collide with the particulars represented.
From palimpsest to hypertext: artists have literally and conceptually been ‘mapping’ the world, looking at the familiar in different ways, as new technologies have replaced the magical world of wonder encapsulated in hand-drawn maps and atlases of the past.
‘My map is my mirror’, Déirdre Kelly describes her infinite map, reminding us of the human need and a desire for physical maps, now more than ever.
Déirdre Kelly, born in London, lives and works in Venice, Italy.
Kelly has been exhibiting since 1985, her works can be found in many private and public collections including: Museum of Modern Art Library, New York; Tate Gallery Library, London; Reuters Ltd and Sedgewick Group International. www.deirdrekelly.net
Scuola Internazionale di Grafica
An unusual production of Thomas Otway’s classic Restoration play, Venice Preserv’d, is to be performed by the Spectators’ Guild in Greenwich this Spring.
Michelle posted her second essay about Venice on the eve of World War One on The History Girls, April 10th
Her next History Girls blog will on May 10th.
Elizabeth Hand, Mortal Love
In an early review of the American edition of The True & Splendid History of The Harristown Sisters. Karen Frank writes:
If the Swiney sisters were with us today they would be the stars of a reality show which would blow the Kardashians out of the water. Lovric bases her novel on an actual American sister act and resets the events in post famine Ireland. From starvation to world acclaim these sisters use their amazingly long and luxurious hair to rise to the heights as an entertainment sensation while falling victim to an unscrupulous 19th century marketing scheme. Alternately dark and delightful the story is a Gothic feast with plenty of meat.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, has written: 'Michelle Lovric is devilishly clever, fiendishly comic and generally just an irresistible novelist. I delighted in every page.'
An extra date has been added to the Guardian Masterclasses How to Write for Children, which Michelle Lovric teaches with Lucy Coats. The following dates are now confirmed:
To book, contact the Guardian
In her art of writing blog, Lisa Clifford interviewed Michelle Lovric about how food can be used in plot and character development. The interview can be seen here.
Michelle posted a piece on Venice on the eve of World War One The History Girls blog on March 10th.
She will continue that essay in her History Girls blog on April 10th.
Robert Galbraith, The Cuckoo’s Calling
Goodreads has a giveaway offer for The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, to be published on June 5th, by Bloomsbury.
Michelle posted a piece on The History Girls on February 10th about a letter of passage for two milk-fed zebras. Her next History Girls blog will be on March 10th.
A new course on food-writing in Tuscany
Venetian collage artist Deirdre Kelly features in a new exhibition in London
Contemporary Collage & Photomontage
Kate Atkinson, Life after Life
Michelle posted a blog about the Feast of the Epiphany in Venice on the History Girls website on January 10th.
Her next posting there will be on February 10th.
Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries
A welcome to the Harristown Sisters …
WE LOVE THIS BOOK asked ten of its favourite bloggers to nominate the books they are most eagerly anticipating in 2014.
Fleur Fisher chose The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, saying, “I have loved Michelle Lovric’s dark, rich, historical novels, and, after travelling to Venice and to Latin America with her, I am so excited to discover the stories she will tell and the pictures she will paint of 19th-century Ireland, in the wonderfully titled The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters.”
The first three Guardian Masterclasses on Writing for Children, taught by Lucy Coats and Michelle Lovric, have sold out and so new dates are planned for April and May 2014, with a whole weekend in February:
Lucy Coats blogged about the teaching experience on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure.
Michelle posted a blog about seeing a Canaletto painting from a unique perspective for the History Girls, December 10th, 2013.
Her next History Girls blog is scheduled for January 10th.
English Pantomime in Venice
Tiziano Scarpa, Laguna l’invidiosa
Please note that the January news will be posted a few days later than usual.
Apologies to Tracey Robertson for rendering her speechless, but also thanks for an interesting review of The Book of Human Skin on The Book and Booze Club website:
Michelle was planning a post about her experience of filming with Michael Portillo on one of his Great Railway Journeys on History Girls website for November 10th but computer problems meant she missed her slot. (Instead, there is an excellent post by Elizabeth Laird about literary travellers).
Her next History Girls blog will be on December 10th.
Her essay (in Italian) on using Baiamonte Tiepolo as a villain in her children’s books has been published in La congiura imperfetta di Baiamonte Tiepolo, edited by Nelli-Elena Vanzan Marchini. The book records the proceedings of two conferences held in 2010 to mark the 700th anniversary of the failed conspiracy to murder Doge Pietro Gradenigo and set up a new government in Venice.
The Venezia Città di Lettori campaign to save the bookshops of La Serenissima has continued with a new initiative on November 30th.
Cafoscarina Michela Scibilia [mattino], Alberto Fiorin [pomeriggio]
In a strange echo of the events of Michelle Lovric’s novel, The Fate in the Box, a new happening has been taking place in Venice since November 6th. Spot the similarities in the cover of The Fate in the Box, and the promotional poster for Crocodiles of Venice on the left.
The show takes place every Wednesday evening from 6pm at F30, one minute from Piazzale Roma and a few feet from the Calatrava Bridge.
Booklovers will be delighted to hear that Tales on Moon Lane has reopened looking more beautiful than ever, after the flood that closed the bookshop in the summer.
Michelle Lovric is interviewed by Michael Portillo in the Great Continental Railway Journeys episode on BBC2 at 8pm on November 3rd.
The 2014 Venice Pantomime, entitled Jack and the Beanstalk (Jack e i Fagioli Magici) will be held at the Teatro a L'Avogaria January 16, 17 and 18. Bookings will be taking bookings for seats in December and January.
Conference on the Lazzaretto Vecchio and the Ospedale Civile in Venice
Le conferenze-dibattito si terranno all'Ateneo Veneto:
il 22 ottobre alle ore 17,30 con Nelli Vanzan Marchini,Gaetano Thiene dell'Università degli Studi di Padoca, Girolamo Fazzini responsabile del Lazzaretto Novo : La storia e il futuro del Lazzaretto Vecchio,
il 29 ottobre alle 17,30 Il patrimonio storico dell'Ospedale Civile nella Scuola Grande di San Marco, relatrice Nelli Vanzan Marchini, sono invitati al dibattito Giuseppe Dal Ben Direttore dell'USSL 12 veneziana, le soprintendenti Lorena Dal Poz, Giovanna Damiani, Erilde Terenzoni.
il 5 novembre parteciperanno alla tavola rotonda su I patrimoni della sanità veneziana, progettualità europea e modelli di sviluppo compatibile
Alberto D'Alessandro (Consiglio d'Europa, Venice Office), Fausta Bressani (Direzione dei Beni Culturali della Regione del Veneto), Umberto Marcello del Majno (Comitati Internazionali dei privati), Vincenzo Tiné (Soprintendenza per i beni archeologici del Veneto), Erminia Sciacchitano (referente MiBact per la cooperazione con il Consiglio d’Europa)
Michelle contributed some thoughts on drowning to the History Girls blog on October 10th. Her next post on that blog is on November 10th.
Beatrice Hitchman, Petit Mort
Ines Bielski Lagazzi, Saint Lucy
Alessandro Marzo Magno, Bound in Venice, The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book
Michelle Lovric’s next book for adults, The True & Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters, will be published by Bloomsbury in June 2014 in the UK and in August in the USA.
The Fate in the Box is one of eight shortlisted titles for the Hillingdon Primary School Book of the Year Award 2014.
Two poems by Michelle have been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.
Her poem about a London rat visiting Venice has just been published in Projects Inspired by Poetry and Art by Céline George and Rebecca Bruce.
Michelle posted about a march through Venice’s past on The History Girls website on August 10th
Her next History Girls blog will be on October 10th.
Davide Busato, Serial Killers of Venice
Sally Gardner, Maggot Moon
Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Wendy French and Jane Kirwan, Born in the NHS
Roddy Doyle, Greyhound of a Girl
Frank Schatzing, Death and the Devil
August & September 2013
Welcome to the Birdcage describes The Book of Human Skin as ‘a wonderful slice of fiction … If you're a fan of any Gothic Literature, the works and writing of Anne Rice or shows like Hannibal, Game of Thrones or The Borgias on HBO etc I would recommend this book for you. This dazzlingly dark novel will certainly prove an interesting read as it turns one of the most beautiful cities in Europe into a much grimmer place. The story is shocking and amusing in all the right measures. Don't read this book if you have a queasy/weak stomach.’
Darren Hartwell at Bookzone4Boys has
a heartwarming review of The Fate
in the Box: ‘With this,
her fourth book, surely it is time that Michelle is lauded by all as one
of the current greats, along with the likes of David Almond, John Boyne,
and even Neil Gaiman. I certainly enjoyed this a lot more than I did
The Ocean at the End of the Lane.’ He adds: ‘Somewhere I have
a much used book mark that bears a quote by the great Mark Twain. I
think it goes something like: "My books are like water; those of the
great geniuses are wine. Fortunately everybody drinks water". Yes, I
drink a lot of water, but every now and again I like to partake of a
fine wine, and Michelle Lovric's books are among the finest of fine
Events and appearances
Michelle Lovric will be teaching a Guardian Masterclass in children’s writing with Lucy Coats on September 7th. The course is sold out but there are further sessions planned for October and November.
She will also appear at the Festival of Book Clubs at Lord Wandsworth College on September 11th.
Michelle posted a blog about a new mascot for Venice on the History Girls on July 10th.
On August 10th, she posted on gifts to the water, historical and present. Her next post on the History Girls will be September 10th.
Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue
Mary Roach, Stiff
Joan Carroll Cruz, Relics
Louise Levene, A Vision of Loveliness
Paula Martinac, Chicken
James Bentley, Restless Bones
Nicholson Baker, A Box of Matches
Kevin Fong, Extremes
Kathleen Walker-Meikle, Mediaeval Pets
Rob Lloyd Jones, Wild Boy
Penelope Lively, According to Mark
Michelle posted a blog about blue glass seahorses, hair sandwiches and veiled statues on The History Girls on June 10th.
Her next blog for The History Girls will be July 10th.
She writes about beautification and laziness in an interview with Beth Kemp at Thoughts by the Hearthfire.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus
Andrea Ashworth, Once in a House on Fire
John Julius Norwich, The
Augustus Hare and St Claire Baddeley,
Joseph Pohle, Mariology
Federico Barbierato, The Inquisitor in the Hat Shop
Alison Luchs, The Mermaids of
H. Chick (ed), A Chronicle of the Carmelites in
Andrew Jotischky, The Carmelites and
Various, San Marco,
Artwork by Agnes Treherne
The Fate in the Box, published May 2nd, has been receiving reviews.
Elizabeth Murray at Inis, the magazine for Children’s Books Ireland, says, ‘Lovric uses a unique and charismatic approach to standard themes such as good vs evil, right vs wrong, selfishness vs the greater good and the right to redemption and revenge. Overall, The Fate in the Box delivers a gripping blend of nail-biting adventure, brain-tingling mystery and laugh-out-loud slapstick – with a rewarding ending, guaranteed to keep readers on the edge of their seats.’
Vincent Ripley at Mr Ripley’s Enchanted Books writes, ‘There is so much going on in this story that you are never quite sure what’s coming around the corner. It could be amazingly written dialogue one minute quickly followed by humour and laughs the next. With a combination of suspense, mystery, horror and mayhem this story really does have the lot. It is a truly creative and, in my opinion, a one of a kind reading experience.’
Sarah Taylor at Bookbabblers read the whole book in two sittings.
Sue Purkiss on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure warns that ‘The Fate in the Box is not for the faint-hearted … But the way the story is told is so affirmative that, even as you seriously consider taking shelter behind the sofa, you know that ultimately good – and the children – will triumph. I’d recommend this to boys and girls who enjoy adventure, humour, fantasy, and a good story phenomenally well told.’
Meanwhile Bookwitch warns readers that they also risk getting an education …
Beth Kemp at Thoughts from the Hearthfire says that The Fate in the Box has ‘all the characteristics of the best-loved children’s stories, including larger-than-life characters alongside believable child heroes, magic and mystery and clear lines between good and evil.’
Sam Hawksmoor at Hackwriters has worked out the connections: There is great evil and paranoia in this Italian adventure and much fun to be had in what is really a kind of distant prequel to the wonderful Undrowned Child by Ms Lovric. The conclusion: A complex delight with vivid writing that brings old '
And The Fate in the Box’s salty-tongued curry-gobbling mermaids are also mentioned in this lovely review for The Undrowned Child.
Barrie Kerper at The Collected Traveller Blog has written a long post about Michelle Lovric’s writing for children and adults, and the bookshop campaign in
Meanwhile The Mourning Emporium receives a lovely accolade from
The books will be reissued in paperback, with new covers, to coincide with the publication of the new adult novel, The Swiney Godivas, in 2014.
Michelle has written a poem about a young
Michelle will be the guest speaker at a Guardian masterclass on How to Write For Children led by Lucy Coats. The course takes place on September 7th 2013. Details and booking information here.
Michelle posted a piece on The History Girls on May 1oth about exploring the extraordinary bell-tower of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in
She wrote about what has happened to all the Canaletto paintings in
… and about creating bookshop window displays for An Awfully Big Blog Adventure
She revealed some Swedish affinities and strange truths about herself in an interview with Bookwitch
… and chatted to Teresa Majury at Lovely Treez Reads about all things Irish and Italian, and about the vulnerability of writers young and old
With Sarah Taylor at Bookbabblers, she talked about writing the eighteenth century and the ‘pulchroactivity’ of
Michelle’s next History Girls post will be on June 10th.
Charles L. Graves, Ed, Humours of Irish Life
Algernon Bastard, The Gourmet’s Guide to Europe, 1903
Moris Farhi, Songs from Two Continents
Natasha Solomons, The Novel in the ViolaKatie Fforde, Living Dangerously
Günter Grass, Poems of Günter Grass
J.O. Choules (ed), Young Americans Abroad Vacation in Europe: Travels in
Hunter Davies, The Grand Tour
George. H. Heffner, The Youthful Wanderer, 1876
(extract: As I was very much disappointed with
I shall not occupy much time in describing this daughter of the sea.
The railway bridge which leads to this city is about two miles long.
I expected that a city whose streets are canals and whose carriages
are all boats, would present a very unique appearance, but when I
once saw them, they were so exactly what I had anticipated, that I
felt disgusted and left the city without doing justice even to the vast
collection of paintings in the Ducal Palace.’
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