Culture vulture

27th August 2004 at 01:00
Avril Joy enjoys journeys - her own and other people's

Summer books

I'm writing my third novel, which is a crossover novel for young and adult readers, so I'm planning to read The Fire-Eaters by David Almond as he's the master of the crossover novel. I love his economical style and deceptive simplicity. I've lined up Yellow Dog because I am a Martin Amis fan. He uses language in an original way and his books have an edgy, contemporary feel that I find stimulating. I have booked two weeks for my family in a gite in Normandy and, as I like to read something to do with the area I visit, I've lined up Daughters of the House by Mich le Roberts because it is beautifully descriptive and conveys a sense of place.

Away from it all

I hope to take a bus trip to eastern Europe with my father as I love travelling through many places, watching the world go by without having to do anything. I've promised my son that next year we'll go to the Glastonbury music festival. I've never been but I grew up in that part of the world.


The Turkish film Uzak (Nuri Bilge Ceylan), pictured, and Italian film I'm Not Scared (Gabriele Salvatores), about people's individual journeys, promise to be atmospheric. I like films that reflect on relationships as well as the darker side of coming of age. I have a lot of sympathy for young people who have had difficult lives, as I have worked with so many.

Summer projects

The novel I'm writing - about a young girl who runs away from home - looks at the darker side of life. I'm fascinated by women's survival instincts.

Many of the women I work with have suffered great hardship, grief and loss, and yet have tremendous tenacity. They develop admirable ways of coping and often have a great sense of humour. Many are keen to take up the educational opportunities offered in prison as they have missed out - they might have been on the street, or heroin addicts - and self-esteem is rock bottom.

Avril Joy is head of learning and skills at HMP Low Newton women's prison and young offenders institute in County Durham, where she has worked for the past 20 years. Last year she received a Northern Promise award from the Northern Rock Foundation to complete her first novel, The Orchid House. She was talking to Elaine Williams. Friday magazine, which features Culture Vulture every week, returns next week

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