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ursula bentley

Lists have become almost ubiquitous – whether it’s our favourite albums or lead guitarists or comic double acts.

But 30 years ago, when Granta magazine published its first list of 20 young British novelists to keep an eye on, it established a tradition that has helped both writers and readers.

Among the names featured in that first list were amongst others Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, Martin Amis, Pat Barker, Kazuo Ishiguro, Graham Swift, Rose Tremain…. all at the start of careers, which have blossomed and flourished.

Also featured in the first list was Ursula Bentley, who I interviewed at the time because she was originally from Sheffield, which meant the evening newspaper I worked for could get a local angle.

Her debut novel was called ‘The Natural Order’ (Secker and Warburg) and I remember phoning her in Switzerland where she was living at the time to do a brief interview.

Not a great novel reader myself, I actually enjoyed the book and expected to hear more about her in the years that followed… but didn’t.

Fast forward to 2003 and the last Granta list coming out, which prompted a Guardian journalist to see what had happened to Ursula Bentley.

I’ve attached a link to the resulting article because it’s a rather moving piece about being a writer and the fickle nature of success, particularly in light of the fact that Bentley died shortly after it was written.

Her books are still available via Abe Books for a few quid each, and 30 years on from her being highlighted alongside McEwan, Amis et al, it would be good to see her books receiving more attention.

Ursula Bentley: The One That Got Away – Guardian article

Ursula Bentley – AbeBooks website

The 2013 Granta list of Young British Novelists will be unveiled on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Front Row’ on 15th April.

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