Meeting the English

Educated at Edinburgh and Oxford,¬†Kate Clanchy (¬†lived in London’s East End for several years, before moving to Oxfordshire where she now works as a teacher, journalist and freelance writer. Her 2013 novel has a summary as follows. It’s in response to an advertisement that¬†Struan Robertson, a bright orphan, and just seventeen, leaves his dour native town in Scotland. This is ‘Cuik’ (the idea for which may have come from Penicuik but located in West Lothian). He¬†arrives at a creaky Hampstead¬†house¬†in the freakishly hot summer of 1989. Everything is exotic and larger than life to him.¬†His job is to care for playwright and one-time literary star Phillip Prys who has been¬†dumbfounded and paralyzed by a massive stroke. Although Phillip’s two teenage children, two wives, and a literary agent all rattle round¬†the large Hampstead¬†house, they are each too busy with their peculiar obsessions to look after him themselves. As¬†London bakes, Struan finds himself tangled in a midsummer’s dream of mistaken identity, giddying property prices, wild swimming, and overwhelming passions. Everyone seems to have re-invented themselves¬†on the open canvas which is The Great Wen of London. For each of them¬†it is to be a life-changing summer.¬†Clanchy sprinkles her narrative with poetic skill which make her sentences shimmer.¬†Of London in that hot summer she describes the¬†sky “like a dazzling silk tent, each night, breezes hot as breath, and spurts of stink like steam from a ham-bone”.

This is a bright book about dark subjects Рa tale about kindness and its limits, told with love. It is a coming of age story for anyone who has ever felt themselves to be an outsider; a love story for the awkward; and a comedy for anyone who has ever lived in a family. Expect witty dialogue, caustic observations, and a cast of gleeful, zesty characters. This is a jolly big Jaffa Cake for your brain in the week before Easter. I hope you enjoy it.

Enquire at your local library or available at


320 pages in Picador paperback edition

First published 2013

ISBN 978-0330535281


Image result for kate clanchy

Kate Clanchy


Scroll to Top