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Debut novel night: Daisy Johnson X Sharlene Teo
28 June @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm£4
Ponti: 2003. Singapore. Friendless and fatherless, sixteen-year-old Szu lives in the shadow of her mother Amisa, once a beautiful actress and now a hack medium performing séances with her sister in a rusty house. When Szu meets the privileged, acid-tongued Circe, they develop an intense friendship which offers Szu an escape from her mother’s alarming solitariness, and Circe a step closer to the fascinating, unknowable Amisa. Seventeen years later, Circe is struggling through a divorce in fraught and ever-changing Singapore when a project comes up at work: a remake of the cult seventies horror film series ‘Ponti’, the very project that defined Amisa’s short-lived film career. Suddenly Circe is knocked off balance: by memories of the two women she once knew, by guilt, and by a past that threatens her conscience . . .
Told from the perspectives of all three women, Ponti is at once an astounding portrayal of the gaping loneliness of teenagehood, and a vivid exploration of how tragedy can make monsters of us.
Everything Under: Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn’t seen her mother since the age of sixteen, though – almost a lifetime ago – and those memories have faded. Now Gretel works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature.
A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel’s isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water – a canal thief? – swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.
DAISY JOHNSON’s debut short story collection, Fen, was published by Cape and in the US by Graywolf. It won the Edge Hill prize in 2017. Her novel, Everything Under (Cape), comes out in July 2018. She was the winner of the AM Heath Prize and the Harper’s Bazaar short story prize. She has been longlisted for the Sunday Times Short Story Prize and the New Angle Prize.
SHARLENE TEO was shortlisted for the Berlin Writing Prize and holds fellowships from the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation and the University of Iowa International Writing Program. In 2016, she won the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writer’s Award for Ponti, her first novel.