24 March 2015

Out of this world – more stellar reviews for former CBC students

Out of This World Curtis Brown Creative students reviews
by Wei Ming Kam

It’s getting increasingly hard to keep track of the stellar press for our most recent crop of debut novelists who’ve taken our creative writing courses! Since learning how to write a novel with us and getting publishing deals, they’ve been living up to their inclusion in various lists of new writers to look out for. Catherine Chanter, Antonia Honeywell, Kate Hamer and James Hannah have recently been picked by Amazon for their Rising Stars of 2015 selection, and there’s also been more fantastic reviews about several of our ex-students.

Kate Hamer’s The Girl In The Red Coat continues to have critics raving about it, with Lucy Atkins of The Sunday Times musing about Kate’s exploration of storytelling and references to fairytales like Red Riding Hood.  ‘An undeniably compelling book… an engrossing read,’ she says, ‘to be devoured in a single lupine gulp.’

Fairytales, The Guardian’s Sarah Crown writes, are also the real inspiration for Catherine Chanter’s book The Well. Set in a modern-day Britain where water is running out everywhere, Catherine’s book is about the family whose farm is the only place left where it rains, and the consequences that come with this mysterious miracle. ‘An elemental tale of princes and witches,’ Sarah Crown says, with an ‘undeniable power – both of ideas and execution… fans of the once-upon-a-time, read on.’ That would be the stories, not the TV show, we presume. Marvellous.

Moving forward from fairytales to death, we look at the growing number of starry-eyed responses to James Hannah’s The A-Z of You and Me. The story of Ivo, a man dying in a hospice and remembering his life through a game of A-Z, where each letter is for a body part and a story about each of them, James’s book has had some extraordinarily emotional responses so far. The Independent chose it alongside fellow CBC student Kate Hamer’s book in their March round up of debut fiction, observing that ‘there’s an elegance to Hannah’s prose, and a compassion… that’s rare to find in a debut.’

Kate Saunders in The Times agrees, saying that, ‘Hannah’s eccentric style is never mawkish and often wonderfully funny.’ She seems to object to the lack of warning over potential for crying though, and says that ‘it gives the reader no warning that it is absolutely bloody heartrending.’ Oh dear. It really got to us too, Kate, we understand.

Similar responses have come from the book blogs that James Hannah has been touring in the last few weeks – there have been reviews, a Q & A, and an extract – Laura from Laura’s Little Book Blog tells everyone that ‘there are some incredibly sad moments in Ivo’s life, so you may need a box of tissues handy.’  Perhaps the paperback should come with free tissues, just in case? Our favourite blog review is Vicky’s from Books, Biscuits and Tea: ‘A stunning, thought-provoking debut which is guaranteed to stay with you for a long time after turning the final page,’ she declares, ‘it’s an absolute must-read for everyone.’ Hear, hear.

And to cap off a lovely weekend of reviews, The Sunday Times included the forthcoming paperback version of Barbarians by Tim Glencross in its regular Pick of the Paperbacks selection! We’re feeling quite eclipsed by our former students – not, of course, that we’re objecting to this.

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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