The Emancipation of B (fiction)

B front coverMy first novel!

B is not a child of his time.  As an outsider, he hides his secrets well.

Freedom is all he dreams of. But when it comes at last, it is in the most unexpected way – and at a considerable cost.

Published in February 2015 by Roundfire, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing.

Blog interview February 2017:


“In an age that overwhelmingly favours extraversion, Jennifer Kavanagh has done a quietly defiant thing, to craft a genuine adventure of the inward life.  To outward eyes a ‘sad loner’, its hero resists all cliches and his journey holds us, not least because his consciousness is rendered in prose as crisp and calm and spare as poetry. ” (Philip Gross, novelist and poet. Winner of the T.S. Eliot poetry prize)

I think the book is wonderful. Vivid and absorbing and thought-provoking. Nor did I find B unsympathetic. Far from it – he is an odd character, yes, but I found myself really caring what became of him.” (Tony Peake, author of A Summer Tide, Son to the Father, Seduction and a biography of Derek Jarman)

A hymn to mindfulness and a moving meditation on our conflicting ideas of home in a novel that explores one solitary man’s efforts to find sanctuary in the most unlikely of places.”  (Paul Wilson,  author of The Visiting Angel)

I finished the book over the weekend, and was completely hooked all the way through. You are a marvellous writer, observer, and guide. You said the narrative would reveal itself slowly, which it did, but to have kept the reader’s attention when sometimes we were witnessing quite humdrum events in quite ordinary lives, is a tribute to your skill. You simply had to turn the page! … Your descriptions of the nuances of childhood and family dissonance are absolutely spot on. I think the book is both haunting and memorable and I salute you for it.”  (Laura Morris, literary agent)

novel launch 5novel launch 3

From The Friend, 17 April 2015

The challenge of fiction by Ian Kirk-Smith

Quaker author Jennifer Kavanagh has just published her first novel The Emancipation of B. She talked about it recently at Westminster Meeting House with Geoffrey Durham. Ian Kirk-Smith was there.

‘I am interested in what constitutes loneliness and in the difference between solitude and loneliness.’

Jennifer Kavanagh is best known for a series of thoughtful non-fiction works on subjects such as travel, spirituality, homelessness and aspects of Quakerism.

The quote above gave an insight into the link between the author’s non-fiction writing and her first published foray into the world of fiction – the novel The Emancipation of B. Loneliness is an enduring subject of concern.

In early March Jennifer was interviewed by fellow author Geoffrey Durham in the library at Westminster Meeting House. The event, which drew a generous and appreciative audience, was engaging and insightful.

Geoffrey, a perceptive interviewer, first prompted Jennifer to talk about her early career. She described how, after doing an English degree, she became a managing editor with Penguin Books. After a number of years as a freelance editor, reviewer and broadcaster, she changed direction.

‘Talent spotting’, she explained, ‘was what I really loved and I became a literary agent.’ It was a career that she pursued successfully for eighteen years.

She revealed that fiction had, also, always been a passion: ‘I loved fiction as a child. I wrote a novel in my thirties. It was very bad and never published.’ Jennifer admitted that, at the time she wrote it, she ‘didn’t have anything to say.’ She certainly has now.

Jennifer then talked about some of the ideas and background to The Emancipation of B. About three years ago, she said, she felt enclosed: ‘I was in a dark place. My novel is not about that experience but it came from that sense of being enclosed. Hopefully, the novel moves from darkness to light.’

The honesty with which Jennifer talked about her writing was extremely appealing. Writing a novel, she admitted, ‘picks something out of every corner of your life. The unconscious plays a much greater part than in non-fiction.’

‘I do not write sequentially,’ she confessed, when asked about her method. ‘I write a paragraph here and a paragraph there. So, I do a lot of scribbling on buses and in the park and at four in the morning. Sometimes it is just a paragraph or a sudden picture of something. Sometimes I would scribble down a phrase. I re-write and re-write, going over the same thing again and again.’

She stressed the value of allocating quiet time to meditation and reflection: ‘I knew that pondering time is so much more important than writing time. Novels begin not on the page but in thinking. They do not begin in writing.’

There is a difference for her, she said, between writing non-fiction and fiction. This was an engagement with the personal sphere: ‘I do write personal stuff in my non-fiction, but it does not feel as personal as in writing the novel. Even though my non-fiction was personal, the material in the novel mostly comes from a much more vulnerable place. I feel more nervous and self-conscious about it. It is like an accompaniment that inhabits you.’

In writing the novel, she explained, she had taken a very different approach from writing non-fiction: ‘I consciously had to let go of discipline. I had to let it happen when it happens and to allow it to form itself. A character is building up, it lives with you, and builds up.’

The open, informal and articulate way in which Jennifer talked about the challenge of writing, and the intelligent probing by her interviewer, produced a fascinating evening. The focus on the process of writing, rather than on the content of her novel, was illuminating – leaving everyone, as I was, intrigued to read the creative legacy of her struggles. Indeed, it did just that, with me, and the effort was rewarded.



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