Brushstrokes in Time
My novel published by Claret Press has been 10 years in the making. In 2005, I reviewed an exhibition at the Ashmolean called ‘Everyone’s Life is an Epic’. The artist’s name was Qu Leilei and my extensive interviews with him, revealed that the epic life was Leilei’s. He was one of the founders of the Stars Art Movement (Beijing 1979). The story of their struggle for freedom of expression is inspirational. I have been interested in China from a young age but the Stars’ story was news to me despite one of the artists, Ai Weiwei now being a star throughout the world.
The main characters in Brushstrokes in Time are all fictional but their story is told against a background of real events with the years 1976-1989 being at the heart of the novel.
Little Winter is a passionate artist from the time she can hold a pen. Like everyone from an educated background her life was tossed into turmoil by the coming of The Cultural Revolution. Cheerful and naïve, she is easily influenced and believes the indoctrination. The man she comes to love and marry, Hu Weiwei is intelligent, perceptive and unusually free thinking. His influence and her own painful experience open Little Winter’s eyes to the truth. Some chapters were hard to write but Brushstrokes in Time is about love and hope.
I began writing for the Oxford Times, in 1998, and every month since have written a feature in the award winning Oxfordshire Limited Edition magazine. In 2008, I embarked on a mission to maroon remarkable people on a desert island. I asked them to choose an object, work of art or book to take with them. In Feb 2012, I sent my fiftieth castaway to my fictional island of Oxtopia – so editor Tim Metcalfe and I, with the help of artist Weimin He, combined the 50 interviews into a beautifully illustrated book called Oxford Castaways.
Those fifty have now been joined by forty more remarkable people in Oxford Castaways 2, published by Oxfordfolio, in which I unravel their intriguing life journeys. Oxford is an infinite pool of diversity and achievement so the series continues.
Oxford Castaways 2 is published in support of Vale House.
Listen to an interview with myself and one of my castaways, Simonetta Agnello Hornby, on BBC Radio Oxford;
BBC Radio Oxford – Oxford Castaways Interview
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