‘A moving, compassionate and impressive first-novel which fans of The Kite Runner will love.’ DAILY MAIL
‘Disturbing and heartfelt.' THE TIMES
‘This book is moving and disturbing. Both sides are given honest portrayals, and the characters are very real. It will change the way you read headlines.’ BOOKLIST
‘McGivering’s prose is infused with the gritty realism of combat horrors and buoyed by the suspended moments of humanity one finds in war.’ PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
‘Jill McGivering has produced a deeply compassionate and thoughtful novel, written with the humanity that is a trademark of her reporting.’ FERGAL KEANE
‘A novel to move you and bring a better understanding about what is happening in Afghanistan…Beautifully written.’ WOMAN’S DAY
‘With an impeccable BBC pedigree, Jill McGivering is better placed than most other writers to give difficult stories about the realities of war-torn Afghanistan authenticity and immediacy.’ YORKSHIRE POST
From the Author
Tell us a little bit about your debut novel, The Last Kestrel. THE LAST KESTREL
is set in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. It’s a fast-paced story about two very different women whose lives are thrown into turmoil by the current fighting. Ellen is a British correspondent who’s embedded with the troops. Hasina is an Afghan villager, a wife and mother whose family is caught up in the violence. It’s been described as an engaging read with memorable characters but I also hope that it may help people to think differently or more deeply about what’s happening in Afghanistan. You have worked in both Afghanistan and Pakistan as a BBC correspondent. How have your experiences influenced your writing? THE LAST KESTREL
was inspired by a real life incident that I witnessed when I was embedded with the troops in Helmand for the BBC. The troops launched an offensive into an area controlled by the Taliban. As I advanced with them into the target area, I found out that one of the bombs had fallen on a family home and killed a family of six, including children. I was haunted by the incident. I wanted to know where the villagers’ loyalties lay and why the family hadn’t fled when the fighting started. I never found actual answers--but the questions eventually led to THE LAST KESTREL
. Your novel intertwines the lives of two women, Ellen Thomas, a western journalist and Hasina, an Afghan mother caught in the conflict. How did you research these characters?
I’ve worked as a BBC journalist and foreign correspondent for almost twenty years and spent much of that time in war zones so I have first-hand knowledge of frontline journalism, including in Afghanistan. Ellen is very different from me but I was able to draw on my own experience to describe her world. In a series of reporting trips to Afghanistan since 2001, I’ve met dozens of strong, outspoken Afghan women; women at the grassroots whose lives are being circumscribed by the current conflict. One of my motivations in writing the novel was a sense that, although Afghanistan is very much in the news now, we don’t hear their voices often enough. Hasina emerged from all those encounters. Are there any authors who have particularly influenced you?
Many writers but perhaps Virginia Woolf most of all. I was first introduced to her novel, TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
, when I was still at school. My emotions and ideas were still raw and her lyrical, often beautiful, use of language was a big formative influence. I carried on studying her work through a BA and then an MA in English Literature and admire her attempts to break new ground by groping for the infinite, the inner, the unexpressed. In terms of contemporary writers, I really enjoyed FINGERSMITH
by Sarah Waters. Her writing is deceptively spare but always skilful and it’s brilliantly plotted. Can you tell us a little bit about your second novel?
The next novel takes Ellen to Taliban--controlled territory in North-West Pakistan, just across the border from Afghanistan. It’s seen through the eyes of two women whose family is thrown into turmoil when they’re forced to flee their home. One is a middle-aged woman who’s determined to preserve the family’s age-old culture and traditions. The other is a spirited teenage girl, excited by change and opportunity. Ellen meets them as they take refuge in an aid camp – which is being threatened not only by the Taliban but by a series of mysterious deaths.
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