Dundee Literary Festival | 18 - 22 October 2017

14 September 2017

If you find yourself up in Dundee, and at loose ends on Saturday 21 October, come along to First Writes. I'll be there along with the extremely talented debut novelists Helen McClory and Ever Dundas. 

Official blurb below:

Join us for readings and chat from these three fantastic new voices.

In Flesh of the Peach, Scottish First Book of the Year winner Helen McClory paints a beautiful and painful portrait of a woman’s unravelling, combining exquisite, and at times experimental, prose with a powerful understanding of the effects of unresolved loss.

The Last Wave by Gillian Best is a wholly authentic, tragicomic portrait of family life as it is buffeted by sickness, intolerance, anger, failure and regret, soaked in empathy and salt water.

Ian McEwan’s Atonement meets Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth in Ever Dundas’s extraordinary debut Goblin, an utterly beguiling historical tale with an unforgettable female protagonist at its centre.

When: Saturday 21st October, 10am
Where: Bonar Hall
Tickets: £3, concession £2


Review | This Mom Reads

09 September 2017

I woke up this morning to find this lovely review of The Last Wave on This Mom Reads

"This was a really emotional read. I found myself tearing up more than once. Martha’s character is far from perfect and I may not have agreed with every decision she made, but I think that is why she resonated with me. She is a woman guided by her passion for swimming and the sea and it takes precedence over everything in her life, including her family.

I highly recommend checking out The Last Wave if you are a fan of character driven novels or looking for a thoughtful read."

Swim Lit

03 September 2017

I spoke with the fabulous Lindsay Zier-Vogel about The Last Wave and all things swimming, and was floored when she asked me how Martha was - it's amazing to find that the characters I've created are real to other people too!

"In Best's debut novel, The Last Wave, Martha, a devoted ocean swimmer who wears the second skin of her bathing suit tan for most of her life, never once steps foot in a pool. “The sea is alive, expansive; a pool is dead and confining. The sea is freedom. There is nothing in a pool: no current, no tide, no waves, and most of all, no history,” Best writes. 

In the book, Martha swims to escape just about everything—the drudgery of motherhood, the mind numbingly boring tasks of being a housewife and is so well crafted, when I spoke to Best this week, I had to keep myself from asking how Martha was doing. 

Best laughed. “She’s like an imaginary friend to me, too,” she says. “She’s good, she’s doing well.”

Local Girl Made Good

03 September 2017

What a lovely article in the local KW Record!

And even better was that my old swim coach and creative writing teacher (herself a long distance swimmer) saw it, learned about the book launch we held at Words Worth Books and came along! It was such a wonderful reunion. And so lovely to hear her report on it - I think I'll always feel like a schoolgirl around my former teachers, but I'm happy to say, she loved it!



Review | Winnipeg Free Press

03 September 2017

So I'm still new to all of this and it thrills me to no end that people are not only kind enough to read my book, but then also to go to the extra effort and write about it

"A Canadian author now living in Bristol, England, Gillian Best makes a literary splash with her debut novel, The Last Wave.

Throughout the book, Best demonstrates her ability to accurately portray the emotional layers that exist within the Roberts family. John and Martha are extremely reluctant to express their true feelings and pass this emotional handicap on to their children Iain and Harriet (Harry). Their emotional suppression causes many misunderstandings and much unnecessary distress, and the reader is tempted to step in to help sort out the characters’ true feelings because they are unable to properly explain themselves."

WOW - One of 17 Writers to Watch in 2017

11 August 2017

According to CBC Books. I can't believe the fantastic company I'm keeping on this list, and am making a trip to my local bookshop ASAP to grab some of these before I'm away back to the UK.

My summer holiday has been quite action-packed as far as book-related things go. I dropped by House of Anansi yesterday, and saw my book The Last Wave right there in their shop window when I arrived. This is seriously the best feeling ever. Signed a few books for them, and then spoke with swimmer and blogger extraordinaire Lindsay Zier-Vogel, I'll post a link to that interview on her blog once it's up. 

Have also spoken to a couple of other amazing folk, and will post those interviews as and when. Meantime, for a little video interview, please do check out Naomi Frisby's YouTube channel, and her review of my book on her blog The Writes Of Woman


Interviews, swim-terviews, and books on swimming

06 July 2017

There have been quite a few things going on in the press of late around The Last Wave, I'm pleased to report. All of them around swimming, too, which seems fitting given it's July!

Yesterday, the Guardian published my Top Ten Books on Swimming. Check it out if you're looking for your next great swimming read. "Swimming and reading have a lot in common: both are solitary pursuits, escapes into different worlds and different kinds of freedom. Some of the swimmers below are chasing bodily liberation in the water; others want to escape their dry-land lives or to recover lost memories."

I was interviewed for the Outdoor Swimming Society about my book and how swimming and writing related to one another in my life. Actually, it wasn't quite an interview - it was a swim-terview, which was brilliant. Ella Foote and I met at the Oasis pool in central London to have a chat and a swim. 

And finally, I was interviewed by Bristol 24/7 about the themes that are brought up in The Last Wave: dementia and cancer, as well as swimming, writing, and life in Bristol. Here's a little taste: Swimming is thinking time for me. With my cap, goggles and ear plugs, it gives me a chance to work out whatever’s on my mind. There’s a rhythm to swimming that I find really helpful if I get stuck in my writing. The rhythm of breathing and counting strokes puts you in an almost trance-like frame of mind.

Friendly Review

03 June 2017

A dear friend of mine, who I met when I lived in London the first time, came along to my book launch at Pages of Hackney. It's been years since we've seen each other and it was lovely to see him again. Even lovelier was the email he sent me after reading The Last Wave. 

He was kind enough to write his email into a little review which I'll paste below, that can also be found on his blog preterpunctuality.

Dr Ben Pestell's thoughts on The Last Wave:

To ‘Pages of Hackney’ last month for a book launch. Pages is a great small independent bookshop I’d not visited before (it opened around the time I left London), with a lively programme of events and extensive second-hand department in the basement. The launch was held in the basement, where I found myself sat next to a display cabinet of pulp erotica. A couple of boxes of LPs were in another corner, and there was so much wine that bottles were stacked up the stairs.

The launch was for The Last Wave, the debut novel by Gillian Best. It centres on the life of Martha, told through the alternating first-person narratives of her family, neighbour, and Martha herself, jumping across time, non-chronologically, from her childhood, and resolving in a symbolic doubling involving her granddaughter.

The opening chapter is set towards the end of the story, boldly breaking the narrative arc by revealing the story’s trajectory, thus placing the novel’s emphasis on individual moments in a family’s life. As each chapter changes voices through the book, we are brought into lives which contain some joy and plenty of regret, and I had a better time with some members of the family than others. I was most won over by the granddaughter, Myrtle, whose combination of drive and wit optimistically counterbalanced the anxieties of adulthood.

The novel is weighted by what one might think of as hot topics for a newspaper: not just Alzheimer’s, but also cancer! Not just post-war sexual repression, but also twenty-first century lesbian coming out! But Best deals with delicate themes authoritatively, avoiding crassness, and with some subtly powerful detail, as in a quiet observation of death’s bureaucracy. When siblings Harriet and Iain are shown a catalogue of cremation urns, Harriet’s thoughts turn unexpectedly to the copy-writer: ‘I thought about the person who had had to write the copy for the brochure, to quietly and sombrely extol the virtues of a gold-plated urn over a simple and understated china white urn. […] It was absurd’ (283-84).

The sea, specifically the English Channel, provides a persistent backdrop for the book, whoever the narrator, and whatever the time-period. Martha derives spiritual strength from the sea, but this remains elusive to those around her, and the sea stops short of taking on the archetypal or transcendental status of a character itself. Yet the book begins with an archetypal image, introducing a terrifically tense opening chapter inside the mind of Martha’s husband. John reaches out for the absent Martha in their bed, her whereabouts unknown. This is a motif that goes back to the ancients: Menelaus does it to the absent Helen in Aeschylus’s Agamemnon (424-5); more recently, Mr Ramsay does it in Woolf’s To The Lighthouse (Time Passes §3). Best takes this image and embellishes it with items from the world she has created – the sand, the seabed – making it resonate freshly.