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Q&A with Jenny Uglow, longlisted for 'In These Times'

18 September 2014

How does it feel to reach the longlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize?

I'm amazed and delighted.

What research did you do for writing your book?

I found material in local archives across the country, read letters and memoirs of different people from all classes, and all ages, as well as newspapers, novels and poetry.

How do you feel about the status/ popularity of non-fiction books in general?

I've never thought about the 'status' of different kinds of books, a term that makes no sense to me. Non-fiction is so varied and gripping - from memoir, travel or natural history to biography, politics and history and more - and I’m not surprised at its growing popularity.

 What is your favourite non-fiction book and why?

A terribly hard question but I have two long-time favourites: Alethea Hayter's vivid, funny and moving A Sultry Month (1965), about the crises of literary London in the sweltering July of 1846, and Thomas Bewick's  pungent, opinionated Memoir, looking back on his childhood, apprenticeship and work in the Tyne valley and Newcastle (edited by Iain Bain, 1975). Both are surprising, and both bring different worlds to life.

 What are you working on next?

Nothing right now, but eventually a life of Edward Lear.


Jenny Uglow is author of In These Times (Faber and Faber)

Photo credit to Robin Farquhar-Thomson