Monday, October 3, 2011

Lena Coakley

Lena Coakley was born in Milford, Connecticut and grew up on Long Island. In high school, Creative Writing was the only course she ever failed (nothing was ever good enough to hand in!), but, undeterred, she went on to study writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Toronto, Canada.

Witchlanders is her debut novel.

A few weeks ago I asked Coakley what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m reading a book right now that I should hate. I’m a fantasy fan; I liked to be surprised by unique and vivid worlds. Fiction without a fantasy element tends to bore me, especially episodic fiction without a strong narrative line. I picked up Black Swan Green by David Mitchell because he wrote the strange and wonderful novel, Cloud Atlas, not realising that Black Swan Green is an episodic, semi-autobiographical book about growing up in England in the 1980’s. I was prepared to put it down after a few pages; I haven’t yet.

Mitchell’s Britain in the 1980’s is a unique and vivid world. (“Druggy pom-pom bees hovered in the lavender.”) Our hero, Jason Taylor, is a thirteen-year-old stammerer and secret poet. Though he doesn’t realize it, his stammer is an asset to his writing. It forces him to choose words carefully, to find synonyms when the first word that comes to mind is too difficult to say. Some reviewers have called Black Swan Green a British Catcher in the Rye, but I was more reminded of the poetry of Laurie Lee’s classic, Cider with Rosie, an account of that author’s childhood in Britain after the First World War.

Nothing much happens in Black Swan Green other than a young poet’s coming of age, but in the hands of a great writer, that is quite enough.
Visit Lena Coakley's website, and follow her at Facebook and Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue