The great Lover is the sixth novel of Jill Dawson, focussed on the poet Rupert Brooke. Reviews have been uniformly good, and the novel may be a contender for the Orange and Booker prizes later this year. Signed copies are not available yet, but should be soon. Nell Golightly is living out her widowhood in Cambridgeshire when she receives a strange request: a Tahitian woman, claiming to be the daughter of Brooke, writes to ask what he was like: how did he sound, what did he smell like, how did it feel to wrap your arms around him? So Nell turns her mind to 1909 when, as a seventeen-year-old housemaid, she first encountered the young poet. He was already causing a stir - not only with his poems and famed good looks, but also by his taboo-breaking behaviour and radical politics. Intrigued, she watched as Rupert skilfully managed his male and female admirers, all of whom seemed to be in love with him. Soon Nell realised that despite her good sense, she was falling for him too. But could he love a housemaid? Was he, in fact, capable of love at all? In a dazzling act of imagination, Jill Dawson gives voice to Rupert Brooke himself in a dual narrative that unfolds in both his own words and those of her spirited fictional character, Nell. A memorable tale of love in many guises, of heartbreak and loss, the novel brings Brooke vividly to life as it shows him to have been a far more interesting, complex and troubled figure than the romanticised version allows.
Jill Dawson was born in Durham and grew up in Staffordshire, Essex and Yorkshire. Her writing life began as a poet, her poems being published in a variety of small press magazines, and in one pamphlet collection, White Fish with Painted Nails (1990). She won an Eric Gregory Award for her poetry in 1992. She edited several books for Virago, including The Virago Book of Wicked Verse (1992) and The Virago Book of Love Letters (1994). She has also edited a collection of short stories, School Tales: Stories by Young Women (1990), and with co-editor Margo Daly, Wild Ways: New Stories about Women on the Road (1998) and Gas and Air: Tales of Pregnancy and Birth (2002). She is the author of one book of non-fiction for teenagers, How Do I Look? (1991), which deals with the subject of self-esteem. Jill Dawson is the author of five novels: Trick of the Light (1996); Magpie (1998), for which she won a London Arts Board New Writers Award; Fred and Edie (2000); Wild Boy (2003); and most recently, Watch Me Disappear (2006). Fred and Edie is based on the historic murder trial of Thompson and Bywaters, and was shortlisted for the 2000 Whitbread Novel Award and the 2001 Orange Prize for Fiction.