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Petina Gappah Chats to the BBC About the Challenges of Writing a Follow-up to an Award-winning Book

The Book of MemoryMariella Frostrup spoke to award-winning Zimbabwean author Petina Gappah about her new novel, The Book of Memory, on BBC Radio 4′s Open Book programme.

Gappah’s debut, a short story collection titled An Elegy for Easterly, won the Guardian First Book Prize in 2009.

“Six long arid years!” she jokes, before continuing: “Writing a novel is very different from writing 20 short stories, and I did find the long form difficult. But there were also many other factors, partly – strangely enough – to do with the success of the first book.

“I suffered very badly from impostor syndrome,” she continues. “I believe that at some point I was going to be ‘found out’, that the first book was some kind of fluke, and eventually people would realise that I had pulled the most spectacular con in the world of publishing.”

Turning to the novel, in which the main character is an albino, Gappah explains: “I wanted to write about race without writing about race.” The author says she wanted to break down preconceived ideas about colour and privilege, but is quick to add that she didn’t want to write an “issue-laden book”.

Gappah will be participating at the 2015 Open Book Festival in Cape Town in September.


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