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Oystercatchers Paperback – 4 Feb 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (4 Feb. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007190263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007190263
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 164,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan Fletcher was born in 1979 in Birmingham. She is the author of the bestselling 'Eve Green' winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, 'Oystercatchers' and 'Witch Light'.

Product Description

Review

'[Susan Fletcher] writes with sensitivity and a delicate observation of details.' Daily Telegraph

'Fletcher writes very well indeed on place. Motifs, real and dream-like, of the sea suffuse the book.' Carol Ann Duffy, Sunday Telegraph

‘Richly lyrical prose.’ The Times

'"Oystercatchers" is a stunning novel…both emotionally discomfiting and romantic; at times puzzling, it is profound, beautiful and redemptive. "Oystercatchers" is the work of a seriously talented young author in possession of one of the most poetic and original voices working now. If she can write at this level in her 20s, her potential is breathtaking.' Joanna Briscoe, Guardian

'Her prose is extraordinarily lyrical: haunted, dreamlike and precise, reminiscent at times of Sylvia Plath…Fletcher's words are undeniably beautiful and her themes are profound…a haunting novel.' Sunday Times

'We love "Oystercatchers"…A dazzling novel of love, loss and trust that has a powerful grip.' Woman & Home

'"Oystercatchers" is a Glamour must-read…Fletcher is a natural story teller whose well-spun stories draw you in from the first page…compelling reading.' Glamour

From the Publisher

Q and A
Sarah O'Reilly talks to Susan Fletcher

You've said that Oystercatchers enabled you to get to know yourself, as a writer, far better than you did before. Can you talk a little about how that happened?
After the success of my first novel, Eve Green, I jumped into Oystercatchers with enthusiasm, but it was a real learning curve. I found writing this book so tricky, which is attributable to lots of things: the so-called `second novel syndrome', and the fact that I put a lot of pressure on myself to write to a certain standard. But, in contrast to Eve Green, Oystercatchers also involved living for two and a half years with quite a spiky person (I would choose to be Eve's friend - but I probably wouldn't choose to be Moira's.) And because it is a novel about a downward spiral, it is darker than Eve Green emotionally, and perhaps that took its toll.
When I finished writing Oystercatchers I felt exhausted, as if I would never write again. I just didn't want to see words or do anything with books, or read anything for months! In the end I gave myself a big break, which was long overdue. I went to Africa for three months and it was wonderful.

What sort of regime do you set yourself when you are in the midst of writing a novel?
It sounds crazy but writing this book was the first time I ever had to set myself a regime. On an ideal day I would sit down at eight thirty in the morning and write until three o'clock in the afternoon and then go and do some kind of exercise or just go for a walk. It was only recently that I found out from a friend that that's what Hemingway always advised writers to do. Another thing I found helpful was to leave an incomplete sentence at the end of each day of writing so that I would have a reason to go back to my desk the next morning!

Critics have commented on your extraordinarily lyrical prose. Do you read poetry?
I try to, but no one in particular. I love the idea of poetry, though - of getting something exactly, with the minimum amount of words.

The characters in Oystercatchers seem roughly to divide into two sorts of people, as typified by Moira and Amy: sea-people and land-lubbers. Could you say which side of the divide you'd place yourself on?
It's interesting you've picked that up, because one of the themes I half abandoned along the way, and which relates to this, is the idea of fate. Aunt Til carries it through the book with her astrology and alternative beliefs, but it was originally going to be a much stronger theme, and initially I decided to give everyone an element. Even now, if you go through the book, you can see that most of the main characters have an element. Moira is water, Ray is fire, Amy is earth and Til is very much air, what with the pilot and her love of birds. But in terms of myself, I was born in Birmingham so I don't think I'm much of a water girl! But I have lived in Cornwall for several years now, down by the coast, so I think that the sea kind of seeped in to the novel. But it's hard to say.

Eve Green and Oystercatchers are both concerned with the theme of loss - whether it's the loss of a bracelet, a mother, a sister, or a life. Can you talk about why this theme resonates so much with you?
I think I'm interested in loss because I'm interested in how people cope with it. Though it's not a particularly happy thing to be interested in, it's one of the issues facing us as human beings. A great loss alters the course of a life; you either survive it, or you don't; it is a test of character. So what happens after a loss - that's what I'm really interested in. And in a rather callous way, it's also an interesting device to use in a book.

In both Eve Green and Oystercatchers the heroine is a young woman looking back over her childhood. What interests you about this period in our lives?
I'm interested in childhood because I imagine that a lot of what we are, and who we are, comes from that time. Someone said that our childhood is what we spend our adult life getting over and I think that is probably right. But I also loved writing from a child's point of view in Eve Green, and perhaps that's why I did more of it in Oystercatchers. It gives you more freedom; allows you to be bold in the way you tell your story.

It's said that a writer needs, amongst other qualities, an interest in other people. Is this an observation you'd agree with?
I think we probably all have that curiosity about other people, to a degree at least, but yes, I think that's probably right. I studied a lot of English literature at school and college and I always remember being quite interested in how most people don't change if you go back in time, in the sense that feelings don't change, from Chaucer's time, to Shakespeare's time, to our own time. Nothing really dates; nothing really changes. And I quite like that, that people remain constant.

Finally, can you talk a little about what you're working on at the moment?
Another novel, although it's very early days. At the moment I think it might be historical which will be an interesting departure. I'm only reluctant to say much more because it will probably change!


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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By N. Miles on 4 April 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have not read Eve Green and bought this book on impulse while standing in a queue one day for something else.

I found it quite dark but although Moira is a difficult character to warm to it is easy to see how nature and nurture combined to form her into the teenager and adult that she becomes.

Kept in the dark about the prospect of a sibling until one lately arrives into her life at the age of 11 Moira undertakes her first "cruel" act, cutting off her nose to spite her face and choosing to go to boarding school almost as far away from her parents as she can. At this point in her life at 11, surely her parents could have stopped her? Feeling unwanted and unloved she enters a difficult school life and withdraws into herself.

Entering adulthood she still struggles to feel worthy of being loved, you would have to be a remarkably confident person to never have had that feeling surely?

The story is told in the 1st and 3rd person by Moira and it is only in her telling that she realises how cruel she has been, and how detached she has been from her parents, her husband and her sister.

There are elements of Moira in all of us - loneliness, feeling unloved, jealousy. This book deals primarily with the negative aspects of Moira's life which makes for a dark read.

The descriptions of the school, the seas, the characters made it a real escape for me. I felt myself beside Moira every step of the way.

I look forward to the next novel and plan to read Eve Green soon.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By kehs TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 21 Mar. 2007
Format: Hardcover
Sixteen-year-old Amy is in a coma. Her sister, Moira, sits beside her telling her about how sorry she is to not have been a better person, or sister, and is seeking forgiveness. She feels it's her fault that Amy is in hospital and is seeking redemption through her conversations with her. Moira talks about how unkind she has been in her life and the cruelties that she has committed. However, life hasn't always been good to her either and she has suffered at the hands of other people. Moira was an only child until the age of 11, and felt abandoned when Amy came into her life. Shut away at boarding school her resentment grew. She had to cope with the torments of her roommates and led a lonely life until she met the guy who was to become her husband. We also meet Aunt Matilda, who is another lonely character, who is filled with a sense of false happiness and is desperate for love but never quite finding it.

This is a dark tale of envy, loss, loneliness and betrayal, with love and trust being the most desired of all the emotions.

Susan Fletcher spins a story so fluidly that she makes me feel as if I am sitting beside her listening, rather than reading the words from a page. She has a wonderful way of drawing the reader in with her opening sentences and leaving them unable to put the book down.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ms. M. Edwards on 1 Jan. 2009
Format: Hardcover
The author said that her heroine, Moira, was 'complicated damaged and tricky to like'. The book is beautifully written but I found Moira to be so selfish that I couldn't like her at all. She had an unhappy childhood and a lonely time at school, but never made the slightest attempt to make friends or to get on with other people. She was frequently quite cruel and was completely self obsessed.
This, together with the fact that none of the other characters (with the exception of Moira's husband Ray) were particularly likeable, made the book, for me, almost impossible to read.
I read Oystercatchers Over Christmas and can honestly say that I certainly wouldn't have finished the book had this not been the last unread book in my house.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Suzie on 22 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had eagerly awaited this book because I so enjoyed `Eve Green' - as much for the poetry of Susan Fletcher's language as for the story itself. In `Oystercatchers' there are no superfluous words or dialogue. At first, the style seemed jumpy, interspersed with sentences without a verb and commas where I would not expect them. After a while, though, the stark minimalism became mesmerising and `normal' writing dull in comparison.

`Oystercatchers' is much darker than `Eve Green'. Its central character, Moira, is hard to like. She is not someone a reader would wish to identify with. But such is the author's skill that as the story unfolded I became engrossed in Moira's life and began to understand in part why she is like she is.

Sitting at her sister's bedside in an intensive care unit, Moira tells the story in retrospect, alternating between first and third person. Full of remorse, she blames herself for Amy's accident, for not loving her and not spending time with her. But at the age of eleven she saw Amy's birth as an intrusion that shattered her cosy childhood with her parents. This is the focus around which the story revolves.

Having exiled herself to a school in faraway Norfolk, where the other girls make fun of her, she is lonely, immersing herself in her studies and her fascination with science. Distanced from her Pembrokeshire home, her only constant is her Aunt Til who visits from London and takes her out.

The progress of an unattractive school career into adulthood could have been so dull, but Susan Fletcher makes it an engrossing read. It is her insight into her characters as much as her poetic prose that makes this seemingly unappealing novel so attractive. And throughout is the pervasive presence of the sea, spray sparkling against the rocks, the tang of seaweed, the taste of salt on lips.

Try it and see what you think. I loved it, but it might not appeal to everyone.
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