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A Sense of Place

Posted on 22/12/2014
By Commonwealth Foundation

Hay Festival, United Kingdom. 2013.

“History and events impact on your characters’ lives – unless you keep them indoors for 90000 words.” – Monique Roffey
As a novelist, how do you tackle something that’s in the news, about which there’s already prevailing political rhetoric, without sounding like you are beating a particular drum? How do you work against stereotypes, whether of palm trees and paradise in the Caribbean or refugees arriving by boat in Australia?
Writers Michelle de Kretser, Monique Roffey and Kamila Shamsie discuss with BBC journalist Razia Iqbal how the geography, history and spirit of place can be illuminated through fiction.


Michelle de Kretser

Michelle de KretserMichelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and migrated to Australia when she was 14. Educated in Melbourne and Paris, Michelle has worked as a university tutor, an editor and a book reviewer. She is the author of The Rose Grower, The Hamilton Case and The Lost Dog.  Her novel Questions of Travel, was a winner of the 2013 Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction and the ALS Gold Medal. She lives in Sydney.

Monique Roffey


Monique Roffey was born in Trinidad and educated in the UK. She is the author of six books, four novels and a memoir. The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (2009) was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2010 and the Encore Award in 2011. Archipelago (2012) won the OCM BOCAS award for Caribbean Literature in 2013. She divides her time between the East end of London, and Port of Spain, where she teaches creative writing.

Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie is the author of six novels: In the City and the Sea, Salt and Saffron, Kartography, Burnt Shadows, Broken Verses and A God in Every Stone. She is a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Literature and the Patras Bokhari Award, two of the most prestigious Pakistani literary awards. Her work has also been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and the John Llewellyn Rhys Award. Kamila lives in London and Karachi.

Razia Iqbal

Razia-IqbalRazia Iqbal works as a special correspondent and presenter for BBC news; she is one of the main presenters of BBC World Service’s flagship current affairs programme, Newshour. She presents Talking Books for BBC World TV and the BBC News channel, a half hour interview programme with leading writers. She also presents documentaries on Radio 4 and World Service. Previously, she was the BBC Arts correspondent for seven years.

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