Staying in with Catherine McNamara

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I really like the collaborative and supportive philosophy of publishing that Unbound has and I’m delighted to welcome another of their authors, Catherine McNamara to Linda’s Book Bag to stay in with me today.

Staying in with Catherine McNamara

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Catherine and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thank you so much for having me and my book!

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

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I’ve brought along my new short story collection The Cartography of Others, recently published by Unbound. It’s a collection of twenty stories set from Mali to Sydney, from Paris to Hong Kong, from London to Ghana, and it’s been praised by Hilary Mantel. I’m hoping to share with readers a little of what inspired me to produce this collection.

(Gosh, Hilary Mantel is quite an endorsement. I love travel so I think The Cartography of Others will be just my kind of read.)

What can we expect from an evening in with The Cartography of Others?

The stories in The Cartography of Others explore the boundaries between people and the alluring otherness of place, the migration of the body and the heart. There is a lot of atmospheric story-telling about desire, place, disappointment, redemption, and the characters include musicians, travellers, infertile women, migrants, victims of illness or accidents, old lovers reuniting or new lovers forging tenuous alliances. I lived for many years in West Africa, and the rest of my adult life in Italy, France and Belgium, so the stories reflect my desire to find a place, understand the people around me, absorb unfamiliar environments and make a space there for my dreams.

(This sounds just wonderful to me. I may have well over 900 physical and more e-books than I dare count on my TBR but I can feel another one might be added now!)

Hilary Mantel read the collection and said, “McNamara’s work has a fierce, vital beat, her stories robust yet finely worked,her voice striking in its confidence and originality. She writes with sensuous precision and a craft that is equally precise. This is fiction that can stand up in any company.”

(You must be utterly thrilled by that comment Catherine. Wow!)

What else have you brought along and why?


I used to have an art gallery in Ghana so I’ve brought along a sculpture from Ivory Coast that is a favourite piece. A Baule woman who for me firstly represents bold and timeless African art forms in the face of colonialism, and secondly, the beauty of all womanhood. It’s a tribute to the places and people that inspired me, and a symbol of the sensuality at the heart of my stories.

(I love it – so evocative of both womanhood and Africa.)

I’ve also brought a photo of myself and my youngest child, born in Ghana.

child walking

Throughout the time I was there I lived hard and travelled a lot, observed everything that happened around me and thus gained material for many of the stories that make up this book. At the time this photo was taken I was doing everything but writing, so it’s also a sign to all of us that there are times when you let your life itself guide and enrich you, and other times when you must get your act together and work. It’s been a long ride from that shot to the publication of this book and I am grateful for it!

(I love that image. It looks to me as if you’re both moving on from your past at the same time as heading for a new adventure.)

Thank you so much for staying in with me Catherine to chat about The Cartography of Others. I think the stories sound fantastic and I’ve so enjoyed hearing your philosophy of life too.

Thank you for having me Linda. It’s been lovely to share some thoughts about The Cartography of Others.

The Cartography of Others

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A Japanese soprano sets sail for arid, haunted Corsica where she seeks her lost voice. A nude woman at the window of a Hong Kong hotel watches her lover dine in an adjacent building, but is her desire faltering? With a young son and her photographer partner, a journalist traverses Mali to interview an irascible musician. A son relives his mother’s last hours before a hiking accident in the Italian Dolomites, while in London a grieving family takes in an ex-soldier from the Balkan wars, unaware of the man’s demons.

The Cartography of Others takes us from fumy Accra to suburban Sydney, from scruffy Paris to pre-fundamentalist Mali. Each bewitchingly recounted story conveys a location as vital as the fitful, contemplative characters themselves. Lives are mapped, unpicked and crafted, across vivid lingering terrains.

The Cartography of Others is available for purchase here.

About Catherine McNamara


Catherine McNamara grew up in Sydney, ran away to Paris, and ended up in West Africa running a bar. She was an embassy secretary in pre-war Mogadishu, and has worked as an au pair, graphic designer, translator and shoe model. Her collection The Cartography of Others came out in May 2018 with Unbound. Her book Pelt and Other Stories was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Award and semi-finalist in the Hudson Prize. Her work has been Pushcart-nominated and published in the U.K., Europe, U.S.A. and Australia. Catherine lives in Italy.

You can find Catherine on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @catinitaly and Instagram.

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