Andrew Ladd on his debut novel What Ends

Author set to appear at 2014 Edinburgh Book Fringe with Andrés Neuman

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Where he’s from, says debut novelist Andrew Ladd, is the hardest question to answer. Born to American parents living in Brighton who swiftly afterwards moved to Edinburgh, he grew up there, went to university in Montreal and Boston, and now lives in London, although he returns to Edinburgh every summer to work for Fringe venue Underbelly. Somewhat at odds with such an upbringing, many might see the Hebridean setting of his debut novel What Ends as being a look back at a place of deeply-rooted tradition.

They’d be wrong, says Ladd. ‘A lot of people are tempted to read the book as a nostalgic tribute to “traditional” island life,’ he tells us, ‘but I'm not sure that's accurate because it's not a way of life I've ever been part of. On the contrary, it's really more about my belief that there's nothing fundamentally “old-fashioned” about island life. These are just normal people leading normal, sustainable lives, and the only reason they're dying out is because they're getting gobbled up by larger social forces that really have nothing to do with them. That's what I wanted to capture with the book, because to me it's a sad and awful truth.’

Set in the 1980s on the fictional island of Eilean For, What Ends reflects the famous tale of St. Kilda, which was depopulated in the early part of the 20th century. ‘It's about how a certain way of life on the islands is coming to an end,’ says Ladd, ‘and the consequences of that for the people and communities there still struggling to survive. It's also about families, and the way they can simultaneously tie you down and yet free you to do things you never would have imagined. From a literary point of view what I find most interesting about the Hebrides is that they can feel both impossibly expansive and empty, and yet also confined and claustrophobic at the same time.’

Edinburgh Book Fringe, Word Power Books, 0131 662 9112, Wed 20 Aug, 1pm, free.

What Ends is out now from Oneworld Publications.

Andrew Ladd and Andrés Neuman

Readings from Andrew Ladd's debut novel, What Ends, and Andrés Neuman's latest, Talking to Ourselves.

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