View from Luing gives Bissell a novel idea

Author Norman Bissell at the first launch of Barnhill in front of a packed audience at Luing's Atlantic Islands Centre.

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Luing author Norman Bissell will be at Oban’s Waterstones next week for the second launch on his new book Barnhill, a novel bringing to life George Orwell’s desperate struggle to finish writing Nineteen Eighty-Four on the Isle of Jura.

Barnhill’s first official launch was at Luing’s Atlantic Islands Centre on Friday, when 50 people turned out to hear Norman read extracts from the book and take questions from the packed audience.

He said: ‘It was very appropriate that the first launch of Barnhill was at the Atlantic Islands Centre as the novel was written just a few yards away, and I could see a little bit of Jura from the village which inspired me to write Barnhill. It was quite a contrast to be writing about Orwell’s dark themes while surrounded by the beauty of Luing.’

The novel was nine years in the making, starting with a commission to write a feature film screenplay, followed by Norman undertaking research and novel writing workshops funded by Creative Scotland. During this time he was also vice chairman of the Luing Community Trust, which built the Atlantic Islands Centre.

‘I could see a little of Jura behind Scarba from my cottage in Cullipool village on the Isle of Luing, where I came to live in 2007, and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head of Orwell writing his novel there. That was why I began to research his life and work.

‘Everything I came across fascinated me and I became as obsessed with Orwell as he was with warning the world of the dangers of totalitarian dictatorship.

‘The more I read about his life and his desperate struggle to finish writing Nineteen Eighty-Four before his health failed, the more I realised that this could make a great feature film and novel.

‘His true-life, tragic love story deserves to be better known — whether or not he was the most influential writer of all time,’ said Norman who also co-runs Luing Stores.

Barnhill is available now, published by Luath Press. After the Oban launch at Waterstones on Thursday July 18 at 7pm, there will be other launches to follow at  Blackwell’s, South Bridge, Edinburgh on Wednesday July 24 at 6.30pm and at Waterstones in Byres Road, Glasgow on Thursday July 25 at 7.30pm. Norman Bissell will also be appearing at Edinburgh’s Scotlandsfest on August 23.

And he will be taking his Orwell story back to Jura on Thursday August 29  in the Jura Care Centre at 2pm in Craighouse as part of the Islay Book Festival  before moving onto the Lismore’s Taproot Arts Festival of Music and Literature on September 20 at 2pm in the Gaelic Heritage Centre.