Francesca Kay Visits Books on the Broad Reading Group
by Kate Wilson

Francesca Kay visited the Books on the Broad Reading Group in Oxford on Monday, 3 November, 2014, to discuss her debut novel An Equal Stillness, which won her The Orange Award for New Writers (2009). This was an award given to support hitherto unpublished women writers at a crucial stage in their development.

As a reading group we have quite an association with Orange Awards, having ourselves won the Penguin/Orange Prize for Readers' Groups in 2007. As part of our prize we had a visit from the author Naomi Alderman, who was the winner of the then 2007 Award for New Writers (See link on the right.)  So we considered ourselves three times lucky when Francesca accepted our invitation to come and talk with our group. 


Francesca was very tolerant of our questions and proved herself not only an excellent listener, but a fluent speaker.

Francesca is pictured below with her book, An Equal Stillness, with some members of our group.
Francesco (sic) in the background left, is also holding a copy of Francesca's second book The Translation of the Bones, which was long listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2011. (The Orange Prize for Fiction has subsequently been renamed the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction after Orange withdrew its sponsorship in 2012).

An Equal Stillness, is the story of the life of a fictional artist, Jennet Mallow, who born in 1924, challenges conventional expectations of women to become the greatest painter of her generation. Despite the beginnings of recognition, in the early years she is constantly faced by the single dilemma - Life or Art? - as she struggles within an unhappy marriage to fulfil the roles of wife, mother and inevitably, domestic drudge, whilst remaining true to herself and her vocation. Amid the conflicts and betrayals which mark her path, Francesca gradually finds the balance between body and soul hinted at in the title. This book is an intense and passionate homage to the creative spirit and the love of life in an age still blighted by the shadows of two world wars and will delight those who respond to the sensuous appeal of paint and canvas and the giddy reach of poetry. 

Some nights ...Jennet would go quietly to bed. She thought in pictures then, saw them swim behind her eyes, felt them take shape beneath her fingers, felt the longing in her fingers for paints and brush, for the chance to bring these pictures out for other eyes to see. The need to paint became a hunger in her, like the need for love. (p.59)

Clear Glass (... ) A tall painting, as high and wide as a church window. (...) Sheer luminescence. Whiteness like the whiteness of a perfectly cut diamond (...) Whiteness thick as the petals of a magnolia, thin as a mayfly's wing. White with blues in it and golds, the promises of light. (p.322)

Francesca has now completed her third book, which is due to be published in 2016. 

Page references are from the Phoenix Paperback, 2009

Naomi Alderman
Visit to
Books on the Broad

Click here for our report

Click here for theguardian article