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Bragg, Melvyn

war narrative family

(British, 1939– )

Brought up in Cumbria, the setting of much of his work, Bragg was educated at Oxford, becoming a broadcaster, journalist, playwright, and prolific novelist. Start with A Time to Dance (1990), in which the obsessive love of a retired bank manager for a young woman turns to corroding jealousy. A cleverly written first-person narrative, told in flashback as a ‘very long letter’, and with an open ending, it is erotic and convincing. Move on to The Maid of Buttermere (1987), set in the Lake District of 1802, relating the legendary story of Mary Robinson, beautiful daughter of an innkeeper, duped into marrying a bigamist. Public reaction, manhunt, and execution follow. Read Credo (1996), an epic of Dark Age Britain, teeming with characters, factual and imaginary. Stories unfold in a rich narrative concerning the struggles of Bega, a banished Irish princess (worker of miracles), emotionally entwined with Padric, Prince of Rheged. Some of Bragg's finest writing has appeared in recent years with the linked novels The Soldier's Return (1999) and The Son of War (2001). In the former, Sam Richardson returns from war in Burma to a family who have spent his absence learning somehow to live without him; the second novel follows the family through to 1954 as they try to redefine their relationships and expectations in the wake of the terrible experiences of the mid-1940s.

Lettice Cooper, A. S. Byatt  GC

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