Rising Star: Jennie Rooney, author

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The Independent Culture

South-east London gets a bad – or even non-existent – fictional press, with the wonderful Shena Mackay (see page 34) one of the few to find heartbreak and heroism in regions beyond the ken of the Northern Line. Now Mackay has a promising partner in grime.

This week, Jennie Rooney reached the shortlist of the Costa First Novel Award with her debut, 'Inside the Whale'. Published by Chatto & Windus, it revisits a wartime past on the Old Kent Road as well as venturing, with poignant, gentle comedy, beyond Peckham and all the way to Cairo.

Rooney is a Liverpudlian, which might explain her rare empathy with the insulted and injured postcodes of the metropolis. But only talent can account for the TLC a young (born 1980) novelist lavishes on characters so far removed in age and experience.