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Xan Brooks is an award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster. He spent his rude youth as part of the founding editorial team of the Big Issue magazine and his respectable middle period as an associate editor at the Guardian, specialising in film. The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times is his first novel.
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018 | Shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards 2017, First Novel Award May 2017 Debut of the Month. This magnetic debut evokes the social and emotional landscapes of interwar England with an abundance of originality. With the country battered and drained by the Great War, orphan Lucy Marsh finds herself in an extraordinary place, and in the company of even more extraordinary people, when an old army truck trundles her to woods on the edge of London. Here Lucy feels that anything could happen: “She might shake hands with a ghost or dance alongside a lion or spoon trifle into the mouth of a storybook dwarf”. But what Lucy really encounters is every bit as remarkable as her imaginings, for it’s here that she meets the “funny men”, four former soldiers disfigured by war, each named after one of Dorothy’s Emerald City-bound cohorts. The novel is a rich tapestry that interweaves the social fabric of interwar England with fairy tale touches. Lucy comes to feel that “the world is confusing, but the forest is not”, poignantly conveying the strangeness of the period. The author has a fabulously visual style, and I loved the ensemble of characters - some haunted, some scarred, all of them nimbly conjured by a debut author with considerable talent. The Costa Judges say: ‘A perfectly-paced, unsettling yet strangely uplifting tale about fractured lives and broken people.’