‘Partial to Intensity’: The Novels of A. L. Kennedy

  • Glenda Norquay


A. L. Kennedy is a writer repeatedly identified as one of the brightest hopes of contemporary British fiction. With the distinction of being described by the literary magazine Granta as one of the ‘Best Young British Novelists’ in both 1993 and 2003, and a number of significant literary prizes to her name, she has also contributed to the development of other new writing careers, in her editing of New Writing Scotland between 1993 and 1995.1 Through detailed dissection of sexual passion, familial relationships and dysfunctional individuals, Kennedy deploys the short-story form to startling effect in Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains (1990); Now That You’re Back (1994); Original Bliss (1997) and Indelible Acts (2002). Unafraid to tackle sexual violence, emotional pain, abuse and loneliness, she writes in a style that is laconic and often darkly humorous. To address such stark issues in longer fiction, with its emphasis on sustained narrative rather than the shock of a brief encounter, Kennedy might have been expected to moderate her forceful style; instead she has created three powerful and demanding novels which compel the reader into confrontation with extremes: Looking for the Possible Dance (1993), So I Am Glad (1995) and Everything You Need (1999).2 As Kennedy herself acknowledges, she is ‘partial to intensity’, and her fiction is resolutely uncompromising in its exploration of dark and difficult issues.3


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For Further Reading

  1. For a hard copy list of A. L. Kennedy’s work up to 2001, see Contemporary Novelists, ed. David Madden et al., 7th edn (New York: St James Press, 2001). For a more up-to-date list on the internet, see the British Council website: <>.Google Scholar
  2. Bell, Eleanor Stewart, ‘Scotland and Ethics in the Work of A. L. Kennedy’, Scotlands, 5, 1 (1998), 105–13.Google Scholar
  3. Craig, Cairns, The Modern Scottish Novel: Narrative and the National Imagination (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  4. Dunnigan, Sarah M., ‘A. L. Kennedy’s Longer Fiction: Articulate Grace’, in Contemporary Scottish Women Writers, ed. Aileen Christianson and Alison Lumsden (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000), pp. 144–55.Google Scholar
  5. March, Christie Leigh, ‘A. L. Kennedy’s Introspections’, in Rewriting Scotland (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), pp. 134–60.Google Scholar
  6. McMillan, Dorothy, ‘Constructed out of Bewilderment’, in Peripheral Vision: Images of Nationhood in Contemporary British Fiction, ed. Ian A. Bell (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1995), pp. 80–99.Google Scholar
  7. Smith, Alison, ‘Four Success Stories’, Chapman, 74–5 (Autumn/Winter, 1993), 177–92.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Glenda Norquay 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glenda Norquay

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