The Land of Decoration
‘Gripping…philosophically sophisticated…McCleen never tips her hat. The writing is born of a genuine inquiry into the nature of religious belief, especially as it relates to one’s psychological development…The Land of Decoration puts a child at the crux of this interpretive dilemma, and our hearts go out to her.’ –The New York Times Book Review
‘...due to McCleen’s impressive narrative control, we never quite know how Judith appears to others...The mind of the child, the mind of the devout believer and the mind of God become interchangeable, joined by the understanding that imagination is power...’ TLS
‘...moving...heart-stilling... McCleen’s first novel shimmers with little miracles... This is what belief must be like, or what it must be like in words. Based on this fine debut and striking new voice the second coming of Grace McCleen deserves to be anticipated with great excitement indeed.’ Scotsman
‘[A] stunning debut.…At its core, it’s about the biggest issues a person can encounter — how to confront the unknown, how to negotiate faith and how to be a decent and loving human being. The fact that Grace McCleen is able to address these matters with such subtlety and delicacy is no small miracle itself.’ Bookpage
‘Surprising, affecting, thoughtful and complex, McCleen's novel grows in power the more time you spend with it, and marks her out as a writer to watch.’ The Observer
‘There were four novels I confidently expected to see on the Man Booker lists, or even as the winner...Grace McCleen’s The Land of Decoration (Chatto and Windus) is both sinister and sharply intriguing, with a completely convincing 11-year old narrator caught in
‘...an astonishing and luminous novel. The subject and form are traditional but every line is newly felt and freshly experienced...Grace McCleen is an author who, with only her second novel, is setting her own clever agenda. She is a finished artist, and performs on the page with all the aerial grace of someone who senses no limits to what she can do.’ Hilary Mantel
‘[A] grand tragedy with an intimate focus...McCleen’s manipulation of suspense is extraordinary...sinewy with tension..painted with bewitching vitality. McCleen’s descriptions are applied with darting strokes...the narrative sweeps with a sumptuous musicality. McCleen has crafted a tender synchronicity between music and prose...Eliot’s theory that meaning can hide in a poem’s (or this case a novel’s) musical form, as well as in its verbal sense, is demonstrated exquisitely. [T]here is much here to adore.’ Financial Times
‘[M]esmerising...incandescent...an intricate tapestry...Escher-like in its simple complexity...the silences almost as eloquent as the words that fill it. And what eloquence! There are sentences here of such agile cleverness, charged with wit and beauty and enchantment.’ The Observer
‘...an intense study of aloneness...moving and beautiful. [A] remarkable piece of work, empathetic, intelligent and genuinely poetic.’ The Spectator
‘Immersed in classic literature, especially at its loneliest and most febrile...Huge questions, of faith, time, reality, individual responsibility and human sexuality are given pained and peculiar answers...’ Daily Telegraph
‘Extraordinary...wonderfully suspenseful and deeply moving...Setting aside the verve and dark lyricism of its prose...it is also keenly observant of the power of the oppressed imagination to create an inhabitable world, even under near intolerable conditions. ’ John Burnside, Guardian
‘[McCleen's] vivid representations of the wild environment, loaded with symbolism and a powerful, often sinister spirituality...bring to mind the poetry of Louise Erdrich, and a sense of fear and foreboding propels the narrative forward...[The Offering] will leave you reeling and conflicted.’ Financial Times
‘That McCleen is a writer of exceptional gifts is beyond doubt. Her prose can soar in moments of breath-taking beauty, most particularly when she turns a poet’s eye on the landscape...[yet] she writes equally viscerally about her narrator’s emotional terrain, depicting claustrophobia, shame and terror so painfully it makes your skin itch...‘ Observer
Winner of the Desmond Elliot Prize
The Professor of Poetry
fundamentalism, school persecution and the edge of the miraculous...[It does not] resemble anything else.’ A S Byatt, The Guardian
Winner of the Betty Trask Award.
I began writing in 2006. The descriptive passages in the three published novels were written that year. Plot, dialogue and action came later.
This is the journal of my thirteenth year. It hasn't really begun yet but I already know it will be the most important year of my life. My task is to find You. The blazing arc of the sky tells me it is possible. The hills say it too. The fields swallowed up in the afternoon sun nod their head. I step off into the arms of the air...'
readings from the novels
the book of safe-keeping