Victoria Glendinning

Visions on Oxford Street

I am uneasy, the way I was one day during the recent snow lockdown, about to flick a switch in a dodgy fuse box. Either the current would be restored or there would be a catastrophic explosion. Or, more likely, nothing would happen at all. The current unease is because my novel will be released next month. Publishers say ‘released’ nowadays, as if your new book were a wild animal being released into the wild. That’s pretty much how it feels.

This particular wild animal has been in captivity for quite a while. At least four years ago I was reading the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913 edition). I’ve no idea why. A sentence leapt off the screen and grabbed my attention: ‘With the dissolution of the monasteries, the nuns were cast adrift.’ I could not get this out of my mind. What happened to a cast-adrift nun? That was the starting point for The Butcher’s Daughter.

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