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Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Broken by Daniel Clay

Skunk Cunningham is an eleven-year-old girl in a coma. She has a loving dad, an absent mother and a brother who plays more X-Box than is good for him. She also has the neighbours from hell: the five Oswald girls and their thuggish father Bob, vicious bullies all of them, whose reign of terror extends unchallenged over their otherwise quiet suburban street.
  

And yet terrifying though they undoubtedly are, the stiletto-wearing, cider-swilling Oswald girls are also sexy - so when Saskia asks shy, virginal Rick Buckley for a ride in his new car, he can′t believe his luck. Too bad that Saskia can′t keep her big mouth shut. When, after a quick fumble, she broadcasts Rick′s deficiencies to anyone who will listen, it puts ideas into her younger sister′s silly head - ideas that will see Rick dragged off to prison, humiliated, and ultimately, in his father′s words, ′broken′ by the experience.

From her hospital bed, Skunk guides us through the events that follow, as Saskia′s small act of thoughtlessness slowly spreads through the neighbourhood in a web of increasing violence. Skunk watches as her shabby, hardworking father finds love, only for her courageous, idealistic teacher to lose it; as poor ′Broken′ Buckley descends into madness, while across the street her brother Jed makes his first adolescent forays into sex; and as her own gentle romance with soft-hearted, tough-talking Dillon struggles to survive against a backdrop that seamlessly combines the sublime and the ridiculous. As we inch ever closer to the mystery behind her coma, Skunk′s innocence becomes a beacon by which we navigate a world as comic as it is tragic, and as effortlessly engaging as it is ultimately uplifting, in this brilliant and utterly original debut novel.

Daniel Clay's debut novel, Broken, was picked off the slush-pile at Curtis Brown after clocking up more than thirty rejections from other literary agents. A re-imagining of Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird set on a modern English housing estate, Broken tells the story of eleven year old Skunk Cunningham and the neighbourhood feud her family can’t help but get dragged into – with tragic consequences for all concerned.

Published by HarperCollins in the UK, Broken was also published in the US and Canada, translated into Italian and Dutch, and has been optioned by BBC Films. After its release in 2008 it was picked as one of Amazon’s top eight debuts for that year and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Best First Novel Award 2009 and The Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award 2009.

Originally from Buckinghamshire Clay now lives in Hampshire, where Broken is set. Before it was published he worked as an accountant and then a print-buyer for a health insurance firm and wrote novels, short stories, and poetry in his spare time: Despite the fact he doesn't come from a literary background he's written since he was at school.

He was thirty-five when he wrote Broken and it was his fifth or sixth attempt at a full length novel. It took about nine months to complete the original draft that caught his agent’s eye, and he then spent another four or five months working on it at various times after that.

"The inspiration for it, or part of it, was discovering To Kill A Mockingbird was Harper Lee’s debut novel, plus semi-autobiographical, and wondering what sort of novel she would have written had she been living across the street from me in the present day."

Clay's second novel, Swap, is due out next February and he's presently planning a third as well as writing an account of the time he and his wife spent working in a French ski-resort as chalet-hosts the year Broken was published.

Contact, blog webpages of Daniel Clay
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