12 May 2022, The Tablet

As her twenty-fifth novel is published, Rachel Billington talks about faith and fiction


Some details in War Babies echo the author’s own long life – publication coincided with her eightieth birthday.

As her twenty-fifth novel is published, Rachel Billington talks about faith and fiction

Rachel Billington
Photo: © Graeme Robertson

 

At the age of 80, the novelist, journalist and screenwriter tells Peter Stanford why her fiction writing has come to a stop for now

Biographers – and, for that matter, interviewers – are fond of trawling through the published work of ­celebrated writers to unearth clues about the author’s own life. It is a habit that novelists in particular object to since it too easily blurs the line between fact and fiction, reality and imagination. And so Rachel Billington is keen, from the very start of our conversation, to pre-empt any suggestion that one of the three sisters whose interwoven ­stories are told in War Babies is her … Even if Cleo happens to be a successful novelist.

However, she does concede that this, the twenty-fifth novel of what has been a remarkable publishing career that was launched with All Things Nice in 1969, did actually begin life as a memoir. “That is why it starts in 1942, the year of my birth, but I find myself boring, which is a problem if you want to write a memoir.” She says this last word as if to send up the very idea. “And so I quickly found myself turning it into a story.”

 

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