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When Fairies Danced-bookcover

By: Shawn Irvin Manning

When Fairies Danced

Pages: 374 Ratings:
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This hugely entertaining tale begins in the south of the USA in 1958. The novel is part memoir. Fact and fiction coalesce as the family embarks upon a life-changing journey. The dynamics of family life is what gives the narrative momentum. Names have been altered. The story line follows the adult memory of the author. It captures the idea of memory and the mythical self. The main character, Georgina Jane O’Shaughnessy, is a small, quiet child. How can such a person be mythical? Be legendary? As the story unfolds, the reader will discover how this can be.

Stream of consciousness is used in several interludes, some of which hearken back to the mindset leading to the War Between the States in the 1860s. Parts are written in the omniscient third person. Throughout the novel, memory recovers sights, sounds, tastes and attitudes long gone. During the time in which the novel is set, America was on the brink of enormous social change, and at the end of the story, the girl sees a vision of new horizons and exciting potential.

The landscape of America is described with awe. The child is impressed with the sights she sees and remains in a state of wonder throughout the story. She discovers the aurora borealis one cold night with her grandmother and siblings as they stand and shiver in the snow. She notices the Alaskan wildlife.

Her voice encapsulates a bubble of time, a time long past. Memories are a repository of a wealth of information and become a springboard for ideas about the life of a little girl taking on flesh through the power of words and her child-like gaze.

Shawn Irvin Manning was born in 1952 in an old military outpost, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, USA. She was the eldest of six (later seven) siblings. The novel, When Fairies Danced is a semi-autobiographical manuscript which charts her earliest years, but primarily from the ages of six to nine.

Manning obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Ceramics from the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas, which she worked towards for ten years during and after the births of four of her sons. She lived in Texas for twenty years before moving to Britain in 1989.

Her master’s degree was in Visual Culture from what is now Bath Spa University. During this period in the 1990s she conducted interviews with popular ceramic artists which were published in various journals. Though she interviewed a number of international ceramicists, the principal focus of her research was ‘The Female Body in Clay Form’. Her interest was in the dichotomy between high art and craft methodology. She gave lectures and visual presentations of this research in Bath, England and in Israel. She also covered conferences for the ceramic arts and curated a number of international exhibitions.

She has completed work for a Ph.D. in Creative Writing in Wales. After leaving West Wales, Manning taught English at Purdue University in Indiana, USA. She went to Tucson, Arizona, to spend the penultimate winter in the States and wrote her second novel.

This is her first novel. She is a published poet of approximately ten poems with Nobel House and in university papers.

Shawn Irvin Manning has five sons and a stepson. She has been married to Dr John Manning, a former professor of English and modern languages for twenty years. For eight and a half years as a couple, they took care of John’s aging mother, Nancy, who suffered from dementia. Once retired, the three of them left the States in 2011 and moved to Costa Rica where Nancy died at the age of 91. They then lived in Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland, for eight months before moving back to England.

Shawn has been an avid student of biblical studies for fifty years. Since leaving teaching at university, for eight years she has written letters to family and friends scattered around the world, which have been both journalistic in nature and demonstrate an interest in biblical eschatology.

She enjoys quilting and decorative painting. Shawn and John have two cats named Sweetie and Bobby Buttons. They are settled in England.

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