24 September 2015

Novels to come out of Curtis Brown Creative: #1 Barbarians by Tim Glencross

Glencross books pic
by Leonora Craig Cohen

We’re delighted to be able to say that 17 students from our creative writing courses have gone on to secure major book deals. And, in the first of a series, we look back at the very first of them to find a publisher – Tim Glencross, whose novel Barbarians was launched by John Murray in May 2014.

Picked up by Curtis Brown agent Karolina Sutton and sold to publishers on the basis of an unfinished manuscript, Barbarians was written on the second Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course back in 2011. It went on to be shortlisted for the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Best First Novel Award 2014, as well as for the Paddy Power Best Political Fiction Book of the Year 2015. Tim was part of a stellar student group that included Kate Hamer (The Girl in the Red Coat), James Hannah (The A–Z of You and Me) and Annabelle Thorpe, whose own debut The People We Were Before is to be published by Quercus in January 2016.

During the course of a decade, four main characters find and lose each other (and themselves) over and over again. The calculating Elizabeth ‘Buzzy’ Price is trying to shake off the shackles of her suburban upbringing to become a poet. She attaches herself to Henry Howe – a failed lawyer and son of millionaire liberal magazine owner Sherard Howe – who is desperately in love with Buzzy. The Howes’ adopted daughter Afua outstrips Henry at every opportunity and seems on track to become Britain’s first mixed-race, female prime minister – if scandal doesn’t derail her. Her charming but sly boyfriend, Marcel, continues to toy with Buzzy’s affections long after their university friendship should have matured.

Mordantly funny about people’s capacity for self-deception, Glencross homes in on the world of moneyed North London media types and their political brethren. Set during the handover of power from New Labour to the Coalition government, the novel is concerned with the changing rules of the game and the older Howes who are unable to change with them. The tabloids have an increasingly large file on Sherard’s misdemeanours and his wife Daphne is forced to write a new book to recant her previous Blairite feminist manifesto; they are every bit as adrift as their younger counterparts.

Replete with references to classics of Victorian literature, this 21st century version of Vanity Fair will have you groaning with laughter and hoping the characters manage to find true love, for all their foolishness. The old certainties are uprooted, pretensions skewered and the reader’s eyebrows raised in this sharp account of betrayal, ambition and affairs. Despite not being exempt from ribbing in the novel, The Guardian called Barbarians ‘an enjoyably old-fashioned novel that grasps something real about the way we live now’.

Barbarians by Tim Glencross is published in the UK by John Murray. To order a copy, please click here.

As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our selective three- and six-month novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.

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