Looking for the Possible Dance

danceMary Margaret Hamilton was educated in Scotland. She was born there too. These may not have been the best possible options, but they were the only ones on offer at the time. Although her father did his best, her knowledge of life is perhaps a little incomplete. Margaret knows the best way to look at the moon, how to wake on time and how to breathe fire. now she must learn how to live.

A.L.Kennedy’s absorbing, moving and gently political first novel dissects the intricate difficulties of human relationships, from Margaret’s passionate attachment to her father and her more problematic involvement with Colin, her lover, to the wider social relations between pupil and teacher, employer and employee, individual and state.

Written with the same quirky imagination and acute sensitivity to the workings of our inner lives which characterised her prize-winning stories, this novel confirms A.L.Kennedy’s reputation as one of the most interesting young writers to have emerged in recent years.

German edition (“Einladung Zum Tanz”) was published in 2001.



“…A.L.Kennedy, a writer rich in the humanity and warmth that seems at a premium in these bleak times, and who is also well able to handle a complex, layered narrative and to build to a shocking climax that is fully earned and not a bit gratuitous.”

ALK: Salman Rushdie A proper gent, that Mr. Rushdie.

“.. the anger is tempered by a lyrical sensuality and a wry humour that makes for a satisfying mixture.”
Mike Petty – Literary Review

“In an unflashy but finely felt way, this novel brings its quirky canniness to bear on a wide range of human relations.”
Paul Taylor – Independent on Sunday


“The lack of narrative focus in the book is only enhanced by its complicated time scheme…”
Lucasta Miller – The Times

“Dance of Boredom”
Eben Smith – Willenhall Adnews, Chase Post, Stafford Post, Wolverhampton Adnews

ALK: I love syndicated reviews.


“That final phrase with its arresting elision of “beneath their dignity” and “beyond them” (in the sense of not being able to make her out) beautifully conveys how incomprehension can merge into, or be confused with, hostility and distrust.”
Paul Taylor – Independent on Sunday

ALK: Yes, quite.

On Bullfighting

This book will be about people who risk death for a living. Whatever you or I think of how and why they do this, they are making that commitment every working day- a commitment which I am pointing out I know that I can’t equal… But I’ll give you as much as I can. I do promise that.”

Bullfighting- this complicated, repellent, fascinating, grotesque, sacramental, ugly, ritualistic, haphazard, and blasphemous fight. Hemingway, Conrad and Lorca are amongst the many who have written about it, now it’s the turn of acclaimed novelist A.L.Kennedy. Unpeeling the layers she looks beyond the theatre, the costume and the well-worn plot and focuses on the fact that a man faces his death while a crowd looks on.And so people are drawn to witness the ultimate spectator sport.

In this book A.L.Kennedy explains the mechanics of bullfighting and then dissects them with surgical precision. The result is a startling confrontation with mortality and an extraordinary work of literature.

Winner of a Scottish Arts Council Book Award in 2001

US and German (“Steerkampf”) editions were published in 2001.

Night Geometry & the Garscadden Trains

covernight geometryA.L.Kennedy’s first collection of short stories shows a talented individual at work.

Her characters are often alone and sometimes lonely as they ponder the mysteries of sex, death and public transport at the end of the twentieth century. Written with empathy and wit, her intimate narratives expose vast areas of feeling behind the surface of ordinary lives.

Often focused on single women, these stories give voice to individuals who are neither happy nor content within relationships.

Buy this book…



“Prize-winning first collection of 15 stories:small incidents in small-time lives described with touching and troubling honesty.”
Francis Wheen – Independent on Sunday

“The prose is pure, full of tenderness and courage, with a gallows humour.”
Boyd Tonkin – Observer


“A.L.Kennedy: making misery tedious.”
Julie Morrice – Glasgow Herald

ALK: I never did get that made into a T-shirt and am, therefore, at fault.


“Furthermore, it is really difficult for a reader to stick at it when there appear to be so many mistakes in grammar and punctuation that the author’s attempt at experimental writing is fatally undermined.”
Mike Maran – Cencrastus

ALK: “Appear to be – you mean you aren’t sure ? “


coverparadiseHannah Luckraft knows the taste of paradise. It’s hidden in the peace of open country, it’s sweet on her lover’s skin, it flavours every drink she’s ever taken, but it never seems to stay.

Almost forty and with nothing to show for it, even Hannah is starting to notice that her lifestyle is not entirely sustainable: her subconscious is turning against her and it may be that her soul is a little unwell. Her family is wounded, her friends are frankly odd, her body is not as reliable as it once was. Robert, an equally dissolute dentist, appears to offer a love she can understand, but he may only be one more symptom of the problem she must cure.

From the North East of Scotland to Dublin, from London to Montreal, to Budapest and onwards, Hannah travels beyond her limits, beyond herself, in search of the ultimate altered state – the one where she can be happy, her paradise.

Incapable of writing a dull sentence, or failing to balance the grim with the hilarious, the tender with the grisly, A.L. Kennedy has written an emotional and visceral tour-de-force. A compelling examination of failure that is also a comic triumph, a novel of dark extremes that is full of the most ravishing lyrical beauty, Paradise is the finest book yet by one of Britain’s most extraordinarily gifted writers.

Buy this Book



” Her sentences have a habit of sending one back to the everyday reality one inhabits, to touch everything in it, to savour it, because she has altered its landscape and created it anew.”
Neel Mukherjee “The Observer”

“This is an unflinching book, elevated by the sublime quality of Kennedy’s writing. Lacerating comedy is pitted against passages of sheer beauty: a surreal train journey with a grotesque cast of characters, utter pathos, as Hannah, bereft and suffering from amnesia, fancies her lost lover transformed into a swan.”
Catherine Taylor “Independent on Sunday”

“Kennedy remains one of the most linguistically inventive and captivating British writers of the age, and Hannah owns a kind of regal, dark humour that elevates her above her own ruin.”
Stephanie Merritt “The Observer”

“As topics, drinking and drunkenness are a literary staple, done to death by so many (mostly male) writers that they have become almost banal. Kennedy’s prose, while sounding the commonplace morass of the drinker beyond redemption, is the opposite of banal. It is rich and precise and dense in its heady sensuality. Like the drams that fuel the protagonist, it is fiery and refreshing at once.”
Angel Gurria Quintana FT Magazine

“Hannah’s monologue is dangerously entertaining, a maudlin stand-up routine.
Ali Smith “The Guardian”

“The other key factor is Kennedy’s technical prowess. Her sentences, heavy with Hannah’s emotional baggage and physical wear, feel almost weightless, as though the words were a ghostly acoustic aspiring to breath.”
Tom Adair “The Scotsman”


“Paradise is ultimately unfulfilling, too clever for its own good and leaving [sic] many of the questions it poses about its hedonistic anti-heroine unanswered.”
Nick Parker “Eastern Daily Press”

AALK: There was a sad lack of bad review for this book, so the one bad review is quoted at length – cue the sound of critic unwilling to revise theories on author’s work…

” …when Hannah reflects on her childhood taste for werewolves, do we really need her then to ask “How could I not be drawn to such golden hearted monsters[…] whose mornings are groggy and naked and sour-mouthed” when anyone with a nodding acquaintance with men, alcohol, and/or Angela Carter would probably have made the connection between lycanthropic and alcoholic metamorphoses anyway?”
Bharat Tandon “Times Literary Supplement”

ALK: An amateur psychologist would have a field day with that one…

p>”…felicities are not wholly absent in Paradise; tere is still the unsettling carnality of the writing (the role played by touch, taste and smell in those desires we then put into words), and Hannah’s thoughts on the vocation of alcoholism often convey well the addictive swoon of being truly off one’s face; but these are rarely allowed to speak for themselves.”
Bharat Tandon “Times Literary Supplement” again

“… her writing feels at once cluttered and becalmed.”
Bharat Tandon “Times Literary Supplement” again

ALK: (Accompanied by amusing drawing of the author looking pissed.)


“She is in no way a lovely stylist – her sentences are often awkward, her metaphors frequently forced – nor is her prose rigorously precise. Nevertheless, by the curious alchemy of creation, Kennedy’s fictions swell to inhabit the imagination, and her characters genuinely live.”
Claire Messud “The Daily Telegraph”

ALK: So, even though I can’t write, I
can write. Right ?

” we find it is Hannah Luckraft, a name most probably purloined during one of Kennedy’s graveyard forays…”
Tom Adair “The Scotsman”

“On a plane, Hannah glimpses on her neighbour’s TV screen a headline about the war…”
Stephanie Merritt “The Observer”

ALK: Actually, the news comes from two different newspapers – “…the headline on his lap distracts you…” “….your neighbour hands over her paper…”

“ And humour is one of the heaviest weapons the hyper-confident Scots writer A.L.Kennedy brings to this narrative.”
Eileen Battersby “The Irish Times”

ALK: I wish… Actually, no I don’t wish. I don’t even know what hyper-confident would imply.

Best Catchphrase:


ALK: Thanks to Claire Messud and the Daily Telegraph for splendidly surreal summary of salient points.

Now That You’re Back

nowthatTender, precise, comic and chilling by turn, the stories in A.L.Kennedy’s new collection confirm her reputation as one of the most exciting new writers to have appeared in the last decade.

Exposing and exploring the sinuous undercurrents of violence anguish and love, she examines the nature of the individual, both in isolation and society, as characters define and deny their chosen identities. While showing us the unlikeliness of intimacy and the impossibility of communication, Kennedy also reveals the subversive liberation of impotence, the humour of discomfort as human beings chafe together, the crazed claustrophobia of the family and the wildly funny results of an eccentricity unleashed – the guru who recommends his disciples follow the example of the penguin, or the mordant and brilliant “Mouseboks Family Dictionary” where Life is cross-referenced to Bad Joke and What You Deserve.

Told with economy, dramatic insight and tremendous empathy, these stories demonstrate a radiant and versatile talent: a writer who has the rare gift of understanding, in equal parts, elation and despair.



..the metaphysical complexities underlying Kennedy’s themes are simply beyond the grasp of most of her contemporaries.
Gavin Wallace – The Scotsman

She is never better than when she is being truly comic.
Katherine Bergen – The Times

Kennedy can be funny, deadpan, angry, tender and despairing. This book of short stories is a showcase for her wildly versatile gifts.

A.L.Kennedy is worth waiting for.
Kate Kelloway – The Observer

ALK: If only more people thought that way.

A.L.Kennedy has a gift for getting inside people’s heads.
Andrea Ashworth – TLS


When character is reduced to feeling the result is not grown-up stories but melodrama and fairy tales..
Julian Evans – The Guardian

..thecollection as a whole is vitiated by a wilful obscurity which borders on arrogance.
David Robson – The Telegraph

ALK: Lovely word, vitiated.


I found myself distractedly wondering why so many writers whose first names begin with “A” hide behind initials… what’s their problem?
Mike Petty – Literary Review

Salvaging these broken lives from history’s scrapheap, Kennedy deliberately discards the tidy wrappings of conventinal literary genres.
Julian Loose – Sunday Times

Life & Death of Colonel Blimp

blimpWinston Churchill hated The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and tried to have it banned when it was released in 1943. But Martin Scorsese, a champion of directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, considers it a masterpiece.

It’s a film about desires repressed in favour of worthless and unsatisfying ideals. And it’s a film about how England dreamt of itself as a nation and how this dream disguised inadequacy and brutality in the clothes of honour.

A L Kennedy, writing as a Scot, is fascinated by the nationalism which The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp explores. She finds human worth in the film and the pathos of stifled emotions and unfulfilled lives. ‘If he is unaware of his passions,’ she writes of Clive Dandy, the film’s central figure, ‘this is because his pains have become habitual, a part of personality, and because he was never taught a language that could speak of emotions like pain.’

A L Kennedy was named one of the best young British novelists in 1993. Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains won the Saltire Award and John Llewellyn Rhys Prize; Looking for the Possible Dance the Somerset Maugham Prize; an So I Am Glad the Encore Prize. Her first screenplay has been filmed as Stella Does Tricks.

Buy this Book…

Foreign Editions

A.L.Kennedy’s work has been translated into a number of languages: Armenian, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian) and Swedish among them.

Her principal foreign publishers are:

  • Hanser, Wagenbach and Fischer – for German editions
  • Editions Olivier – for French editions
  • De Gues – for Dutch editions
  • Minimum Fax – for Italian editions
  • In the US she is published by Knopf and Amazon/Houghton Mifflin
  • In Canada she is published by Anansi