Leaves is a beautifully written novel about people, community, life, pain and love that will appeal to fans of Graham Swift and Ian McEwan.
“A yell became an intrusion of privacy. Was this a clamouring for entry into houses…or lives? Looking on then, looking back now, I wish I could have been more definite. It might have made me a different, better person, a player not a spectator.”
Ophelia Street, 1970. A street like any other, a community that lives and breathes together as people struggle with their commitments and pursue their dreams. It is a world we recognise, a world where class and gender divide, where set roles are acknowledged.
But what happens when individuals step outside those roles, when they secretly covet, express desire, pursue ambitions – even harm and destroy? An observer in the midst of Ophelia Street watches, writes, imagines, remembers, charting the lives and loves of his neighbours over the course of four seasons. And we see the flimsily disguised underbelly of urban life revealed in all its challenging glory.
As the leaves turn from vibrant green to vivid gold, so lives turn and change too, laying bare the truth of the community. Perhaps, ultimately, we all exist on Ophelia Street.
Akin to Graham Swift in style and tone, this is a stunningly powerful piece of fiction.
What they say about John Simmons and Leaves:
‘John’s writing is both precise and lyrical – and he takes us on a compelling journey with the deceptive skill of a master storyteller.’ Rob Williams, screenwriter
‘John Simmons is a wordsmith. In Leaves he casts a forensic eye on a small corner of north London and on the lives that were lived there. It is a memory novel, an excavation of time, place and people that draws the reader irresistibly into the 1970s world of Ophelia Street. His skill is to make the local feel universal in a novel that resonates far beyond the confines of its setting.’ Gary McKeone, former Literature Director, Arts Council England; Chair, Poetry Archive
‘The phrase ‘a writer’s writer’ is overused but in John Simmons’ case it is spot on: his sentences gleam and compel you to follow them.’ John Mitchinson, co-founder QI and Unbound
‘John Simmons is the best writer you think you haven’t read. In fact he’s one of the architects of the language of our daily lives. With his novel Leaves the secret is now out.’ Caroline McCormick, former Director, PEN International
‘As a writer, John Simmons is a unique hybrid … he commands vocabulary with military precision, yet positions every word with care and diligence. Such a treat.’
Martin Clarkson, Chairman, 26 and Storytellers Ltd
‘Here’s a very good book by a very good writer and his many admirers will learn even more about that dark art – writing – by reading this.’ Stuart Delves, co-founder Dark Angels writing programme
‘John Simmons examines the most ordinary of lives with a surgeon’s eye and a lover’s touch.’ Jamie Jauncey, author The Mapmaker
‘In Leaves John Simmons has given us a nuanced and perceptive life study against the backdrop of a London caught in the changing light of a single year. Simmons’ care for the residents of Ophelia Street is matched by his attention to the weight of his words – a beautifully measured achievement.’ Chris Gribble, Director of WCN and Norwich UNESCO City of Literature
‘Years of experience, wisdom and feeling have gone into this unique story.’ Elise Valmorbida, novelist, The Winding Stick
John Simmons is an independent writer and consultant. He’s a founder director of 26, the not-for-profit group that champions the cause of better language in business, and has been writer-in-residence for Unilever and King’s Cross tube station. In 2011 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the University of Falmouth in recognition of ‘outstanding contribution to the creative sector’.
His most recent books are 26 Ways of Looking at a Blackberry, about the creative power of constraints, and Room 121: a masterclass in business writing, co-written with Jamie Jauncey as an exchange over 52 weeks. In June 2011 John’s first work of fiction, The Angel of the Stories, was published by Dark Angels Press, with illustrations by the artist Anita Klein.
He recently initiated and participated in the writing of a Dark Angels collective novel Keeping Mum with fifteen writers – the novel was published by Unbound in 2014. John is on the Campaign Council for Writers’ Centre Norwich as Norwich becomes the first English City of Literature.
PUB DATE: 1 June 2015
Publisher: Urbane Publications
EXTENT: 240 Pages
DIMENSIONS: B format paperback
CATEGORY: Contemporary fiction
BIC CODE: FA