Calling all book groups

Would you like me to come to one of your book group meetings? If so, read on…

Later this month, my second novel, Crossing Over, will be published by Renard Press. Built around an encounter between a Malawian man who arrives on one of the small boats crossing the English Channel and a woman with dementia living on the Kent coast, the book is my attempt to put the humanity back into the story of the so-called migrant crisis.

The subject matter is close to my heart. I’d long wanted to write about Operation Dynamo (the 1940 Little Ships mission that saw ordinary people risking their lives to evacuate soldiers from Dunkirk during World War Two). I found the idea of that crossing very moving, while at the same time suspecting that it had been idealized in the national imagination.

Then, in 2016, I moved to Folkestone on the UK’s south coast and started to hear stories of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats. I knew about the crisis in the Mediterranean and had been deeply affected by the BBC’s Exodus documentary series, featuring a number of people making the treacherous journey to Europe.

It was clearly only a matter of time before such crossings became a frequent occurrence closer to home, even as the rhetoric around immigration hardened in the UK parliament and media. What would it be like to write a story that brought together the two kinds of crossings, which held such different statuses in the national discourse?

Crossing Over was the result. Written in an intense nine-month period in 2017, the story sprang to life on the page. It also brought in a lot of the thinking about language, storytelling, and the ways we try and fail to understand each other that I’ve done through this project over the years.

Yet, although I felt it was my best work so far, back in 2017 publishers didn’t think there was a market for the story. It took five years to find a home for it. In that time, I’ve been privileged to work with many asylum seekers in my local area through workshops funded by the Royal Literary Fund and run in collaboration with charities including the Kent Refugee Action Network and Samphire. This has deepened my belief in the importance of using stories to build bridges between people, especially in times of difficulty and division.

So it will be a proud moment when Crossing Over finally comes out in print on 26 April. I have several celebrations planned, but the first of them could involve you. If you think your book group might be interested in reading Crossing Over, please leave a comment below or email ann[at] by 31 May. All those who do will be entered into a draw and I will attend the winner’s book group discussion of the novel (either in-person or on Zoom).

In the meantime, if you need a bit more information, my publisher, the lovely Renard Press, has put together a handy book group questions guide, which you can find below. This will give you a flavour of the sort of themes the novel involves.

Thank you and good luck!

10 responses

  1. I wish you could come to our book group in Otautahi|Christchurch, Aoteoroa|New Zealand! Migration is a concern everywhere including here. Ours is a country of migrants – as is every country if you think about it, and as people are discovering when they have their DNA analysed. Well done for writing Crossing Over. I became aware of what happens to migrants in Britain through Ali Smith’s books. Shakespeare wrote a plea for tolerance for migrants in a moving speech attributed to him in the collaborative work The Book of Sir Thomas More. So you’re in good company. Literature can be powerful.

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