Last night saw the publication of Mohawk’s Brood by Amanda Prantera at the London Review Bookshop. It was attended by a cloister of friends and members of the public who came to celebrate the event and pay tribute to a fine British novelist on a special visit to London from her home in Italy. Here was my address to commemorate the occasion.
I have always been fascinated by China and Shanghai in particular since the age of sixteen. During that time I read a multitude of books about the country and its people – and the more I read the more engrossed I have become.
This translated itself more effectively later on in my life, when opportunities to travel extensively became part and parcel of my work.
The first port of call I remember vividly was Hong Kong, and during my long varied career – which, at the age of eighty-three, does not seem to come to its destined finality – I had visited mainland China on numerous occasions.
But to this day my favourite place remains Shanghai, a city of many mysteries with a rich history of decadence and a renowned trading magnet initially built by Europeans, which has now been transformed into one of the most colossal metropolises in the world.
The book we are celebrating today is Mohawk’s Brood, written by Amanda Prantera – described by The Times as ‘a writer whose prose is so delicate, so light to the touch, that it belies the weight of the substantial talent which produced it’.
The novel recounts with an absorbing flair through the voices of its members, a large middle-class British family with close connections to Shanghai, who each tell their story and reveal its inner tensions and secrets.
Running from 1906 to the present day, but written in a ‘flashlight’ mode – illuminating different events from different perspectives – the truth is elusive, something the reader must discover for themselves, assembling the scattered glimpses they’re granted along the way. Is eldest son Harry an introvert or cruel, or both? Is his brother Edwin’s destiny to be deplored or brushed off with a smile? And how about their sister Little Ida, the victim, it seems, of a terrible and violent fate.
The answers are all there, in Mohawk’s Brood…
That is, in brief, what’s written on the book’s jacket. But my own critical acclaim goes far beyond what has been divulged so far.
When I began reading the manuscript I could not put it down. It was a story-telling that gripped you throughout until the very end.
Buy a copy of the book, and if you are so disposed you can buy another to give it to a friend – and find out for yourselves the merit of this excellent novel.
Amanda is worth a flutter, and I am certain none of you assembled here today will voice a regret for having been encouraged – or better still seduced – to live dangerously and part with some of your money.
I hope you will heed my call and show some generosity of spirit in order to reward Amanda for her excellent literary endeavour.