Forgotten authors no 24: Maryann Forrest
Sunday 22 February 2009
This column requires two kinds of detective work; I track down the authors, but if you’re interested then you have to locate the books. Throughout the process, one author has continued to block further investigation. I knew that the Australian-born Maryann Forrest was someone to check out when I read a description of her in Time Out as “a stunning writer, so superb and alive a talent”.
Anthony Burgess picked up on her first and only major novel, describing it as “deeply disturbing” but “a keen literary pleasure”. Here (Away From it All) is an adult Lord of the Flies involving wealthy holidaymakers instead of schoolchildren. A Greek island has been ruined by opportunistic tourism; overrun with timeshares and package tours, its natives have been marginalised and employed as service personnel. One day an unspecified world event occurs which ends all contact with the island, so that foreign currency is suddenly rendered worthless. Hotel guests find themselves paying their bills with watches, rings and necklaces. But when the material goods run out, they need something else to barter with. And as the rules of civility become ever more strained, the islanders start to exact revenge.
The protagonist, a young mother, watches in horror as the unnamed island – the world in microcosm – breaks down into rebellion and anarchy. The revengers have Greek names but there is no racism here, because a silver thread of humanity runs through the characters, thus refusing easy demonisation, and the heroine remains upbeat even as all hope fades. The tale is post-apocalyptic and descends inexorably to a horrifying climax, but is written from a deeply personal viewpoint. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is probably the only book that comes close in its bleak subject matter.
Published in 1969, Here feels alarmingly prescient, but when I tried to find out more about its author I drew a total blank. One editor suggested that she had actually escaped the world by moving to the Greek island described in her novel, but this seems unlikely as there are two other books, Us Lot and Immaculate Misconception, written within three years of her first. It appears she was using a pseudonym, and although there are plenty of Mary Ann Forrests listed in the Australian electoral rolls, the trail runs cold after that. Perhaps a reader can help? All three books can still be found cheaply on the internet, but there are no reprints.
Geoffrey Macnab reviews American Hustle, also starring Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
newsFormer soldier taped 33 of the animals to the floor and then stamped on them one by one
Michelle Nijhuis' daughter insists (s)he is, and she learnt a valuable lesson on gender in books
news Opponents claim it would stop performers such as Beyonce and Madonna appearing on TV
It takes a platoon of chefs, litres of brandy and rum, and almost 100kg of dried fruit
newsThat most ancient of crimes is on the rise, threatening farmers' livelihoods, community trust – and human health
food + drink
sportIf you thought the London Olympics and Wiggins' Tour glory made last year best, don't forget Murray's Wimbledon win and Farah's double
Arts & Ents blogs
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 4 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >