In this podcast and video interview, Nalini Haynes talks to Kathy O’Shaughnessy who is in love with George Eliot. So much so that she wrote a book about George Eliot, aka Mary Ann Evans Lewes.
Kathy O’Shaughnessy has reviewed books for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times, Financial Times, Independent, The Observer, TLS, New Statesman, The Spectator, and others. She has worked as Deputy Editor on the Literary Review, Arts & Books Editor of Vogue, Literary Editor of The European, and Deputy Editor of The Telegraph Arts & Books. Her stories have been published in Faber’s First Fictions, and she edited and introduced Drago Stambuk’s poems, Incompatible Animals.
In this interview Kathy talks about falling in love with George Eliot, writing the novel, the intersection between fact and fiction, historical records of George Eliot’s life and relationships with others and more.
When did you fall in love with George Eliot?
Eliot seems to have Stockholm Syndrome in that she’s participating in her own oppression and the oppression of others. This is like those notorious right wing women who see themselves as exceptions while advocating oppression. Is this what you intended to convey?
As events unfold in your novel I wondered if you think she softened her stance later in life?
How much of your book is fact and how much is fiction? I noted in your Author’s Notes you specifically stated that John Cross was present when Eliot’s step-son, Thornie, was having some kind of episode on the floor but that he wasn’t actually there at the time. Why did you add him in?
At first I thought the ‘present day’ inserts of academia were nonfiction. Then, as I noted the different name and the way that story unfolded, I wondered if that were fact or fiction?
Early on I wondered if your novel was a Lesbian romance but then it shifted, with Eliot declaring she could not be that intimate with a woman. Do you have any thoughts on those events and how she was romantically loved by other women?
Why shift from editing to writing this opus?
What is next for you?