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If you go looking for the village of Inkbourne you'll struggle to find it



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In October, then Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlister Claire Fuller talked to arts editor TRISH LEE about her fourth novel Unsettled Ground, which reflects her love of nature. It has now won the 2021 Novel Award in the Costa Book Awards. Here's the original published article:

Claire Fuller’s novel Unsettled Ground, shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, is set in the North Wessex Downs.

If you go looking for the village of Inkbourne down the lanes of Berkshire or Wiltshire, or on a map, you’ll definitely struggle to find it.

Claire Fuller
Claire Fuller

But it does exist... in the pages of Claire fourth novel. Not quite Inkpen and not quite Shalbourne, the fictional village is an amalgamation of the two.

“I know the North Wessex Downs well from having walked there many times and so when I was thinking about where to set Unsettled Ground, it naturally came to mind.

“ I wanted somewhere that felt remote and rural, but actually isn’t. I visited both Inkpen and Shalbourne, but neither were quite right for the story, so I created a new village at the bottom of Gallows Down.”

Award-winning Unsettled Ground
Award-winning Unsettled Ground

The book is about 51-year-old twins who still live with their mother in an old cottage. Jeanie and Julius have had very little education, don’t have bank accounts or transport and have very little access to technology.

The novel shines a light on rural poverty, a subject that isn’t often talked about. When the twins’ mother dies at the start of the novel, they suddenly have to negotiate bureaucracy, their neighbours’ attitudes, and how to cope with the outside world. The two use the folk music they play to bring some joy to their lives, and the book ends on a hopeful note.

Unsettled Ground was shortlisted for this year’s prestigious Women’s Prize for Fiction. Claire lives in Winchester and when she’s not writing, you can usually find her reading and posting her mini reviews on Instagram (@writerclairefuller) or walking the long distance footpaths of Hampshire and beyond. “I’m currently walking the Three Castles Path with my husband, having already done the South Downs Way and the Clarendon Way. Next on my list is the Wayfarer’s Walk which goes past Gallows Down.

Looking for Inkbourne
Looking for Inkbourne

“I love to be out in the countryside and there are so many beautiful places on our doorstep.”

Claire’s love of nature is reflected in all four of her novels, but especially in Unsettled Ground. Jeanie, the main character, is a gardener and her connection with the land and how the land has shaped her is very noticeable throughout the book.

Claire Fuller’s Unsettled Ground is available at Hungerford Bookshop.

Claire Fuller's landscape
Claire Fuller's landscape


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