Five on Friday with Claire Fuller @ClaireFuller2

Today I’m delighted to feature Claire Fuller. Claire is the author of five novels, her latest The Memory of Animals was published on yesterday (20th April 2023). Her previous, Unsettled Ground won the Costa Novel Award 2021 and was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her first, Our Endless Numbered Days won the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize, her second, Swimming Lessons was shortlisted for the Encore prize, and her third, Bitter Orange was on the International Dublin Literary Award longlist. Her books have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Claire also writes flash fiction and short stories. Many have been published, and she has won the BBC Opening Lines short story competition, and the Royal Academy / Pin Drop prize.

Claire lives near Winchester, England with her husband and a cat called Alan, she has two grown-up children.

Over to Claire:

Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

We Roamed Through the Garden by my son, Henry Ayling.

Henry is an acoustic guitarist, and although I’m his mum, I think he’s a very talented one. His music feels like the soundtrack to my life since I had my children. You can listen to it here (it’s number 5 on this list):

The Emperor Concerto by Beethoven. I don’t listen to a lot of classical music but my dad played this in his car when I was a child and it brings back feelings of comfort and safety despite how rousing it is.

Wichita Lineman sung by Glen Campbell, with lyrics by Jimmy Webb. My mum used to play this when I was a teenager and I thought all of Glen Campbell was horribly cheesy but of course I’ve come right around to loving it now. And don’t you think the lines, And I need you more than want you / And I want you for all time, are the most romantic?

Time Has Told Me by Nick Drake A song I listen to at least once a week although I probably could have picked any of Nick Drake’s songs. I never tire of them.

Passing Afternoon by Iron and Wine This is a song from the album, Our Endless Numbered Days and some readers might recognise that I borrowed this title for the title of my first novel. I listened to all of Iron & Wine’s music on a loop while I wrote that first book and it has seeped into my subconscious. 

What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.

Green. Green living things, the colour green, pea soup. Anything green.

Warmth. I really don’t like being cold.

Books. I’m always reading.

Being creative. I have to be making something.

Dark chocolate. Preferably with hazelnuts.

Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?

Stop eating octopuses – they are too clever to be food for humans.

Leave that man much earlier than you did.

Take a gap year, travel, see more of the world.

Keep a list of all the books you read as you read them because when you’re in your forties or fifties you won’t be able to remember what they were.

Have more self confidence.

Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you

I have a tattoo of an ammonite.

I don’t have a middle name.

I used to play the oboe, badly.

When I was about eleven I practiced handwriting an ‘a’ like a typewritten ‘a’ with the curve at the top, and I’ve handwritten them like that ever since.

I can count to ten in Norwegian (but can’t say anything else in the language).

Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.

I’d like to learn how to throw (pots, as in pottery).

I’d like to learn how to throw (and catch) (balls).

I’d like to persuade my cat, Alan to love me as much as I love her.

I’d like to see one of my novels made into an excellent film.

I’d like to be to be able to identify birdsong.

Many thanks for joining me today Claire, and for bringing me some great music. I enjoyed listing to your son’s compositions, and you’re not biased – he’s very talented. My favourite was Old Piano Tune as it reminded me of a mix of Spanish guitar and Tudor court music. I also agree with you about the lines in Wichita Lineman, I’ve always thought they were incredibly romantic. Heat, books and chocolate would also tick my boxes for not living without too, maybe it’s my age but the cold is certainly something I notice more these days. I love your advice about octopuses, I only discovered how intelligent they were fairly recently. While they would never be my go to thing to eat, they’re definitely off the menu now. An ammonite tattoo seems a very personal choice and makes me wonder whether you’re a keen fossil hunter. I used to search for, and collect fossils when I was younger. Sadly my (admittedly small) ammonite collection got lost in a house move when I was a teenager, it’s something I still occasionally think about. I really hope you get to achieve your dreams and that Alan especially will see the light and love you back.

Claire’s Books

(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)

The Memory of Animals

Neffy is a young woman running away from grief and guilt, and the one big mistake that has derailed her career. When she answers the call to volunteer in a controlled vaccine trial, it offers her a way to pay off her many debts and, perhaps, to make up for the past.

But when the London streets below her window fall silent, and all external communications cease, only Neffy and four other volunteers remain in the unit. With food running out, and a growing sense that the strangers she is with may be holding back secrets, Neffy has questions that no one can answer. Does safety lie inside or beyond the unit? And who, or what is out there?

While she weighs up her choices, she is introduced to a pioneering and controversial technology which allows her to revisit memories from her life before: a childhood divided between her enigmatic mother and her father in his small hotel in Greece. Intoxicated by the freedom of the past and the chance to reunite with those she loves, she increasingly turns away from her perilous present. But in this new world where survival rests on the bonds between strangers, is she jeopardising any chance of a future?

Unsettled Ground

When you live on the edge of society, it only takes one step to fall between the cracks

Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Inside the walls of their old cottage they make music, and in the garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance.

But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. Jeanie and Julius would do anything to preserve their small sanctuary against the perils of the outside world, even as their mother’s secrets begin to unravel, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake.

Unsettled Ground is a powerful novel of betrayal and resilience, love and survival. It is a portrait of life on the fringes of society that explores with dazzling emotional power how we can build our lives on broken foundations, and spin light from darkness.

Bitter Orange

Frances Jellico is dying.

A man who calls himself the vicar visits, hoping to extract a deathbed confession. He wants to know what really happened that fateful summer of 1969, when Frances – tasked with surveying a dilapidated country house – first set eyes on the glamorous bohemian couple, Cara and Peter. She recalls the relationship they forged through sweltering days, lavish dinners and elaborate lies, and the Judas hole through which she would spy on the couple.

Were the signs there right from the beginning?

Or was it impossible to avoid the crime that split their lives open like rotten fruit?

Swimming Lessons

‘Gil Coleman looked down from the window and saw his dead wife standing on the pavement below.’

Twelve years ago Flora’s mother Ingrid disappeared, vanishing from a Dorset beach, presumed drowned. Everyone – especially her sister and father Gil – believes Ingrid is long dead. Everyone, except Flora. So when she hears that her father has had an accident, and is insisting that he saw his wife, Floral rushes home.

But the answers she seeks are nowhere to be found – only further questions:

Is Ingrid dead? Or did she leave? And do the letters hidden within Gil’s books hold the answer to the truth behind his marriage, a truth hidden from everyone including his own children?

Our Endless Numbered Days

1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother’s grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.

Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.

Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.


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