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Barmouth by Lisa Blower, BBC National Short Story Award on Radio 4


Photo by Roger Davies

Lisa Blower’s short story

starts off as a deceptively simply as a tale of a young girl going on holiday with her family, chips, car journeys, caravans and all.


Photo by Pondspider


Photo by Pondspider

Slyly, over the next half hour, the storytelling blurs at the edges and fast forwards through the next three decades of the girl’s life and you hear of the family’s journey through disappointments, shocks, bereavements and splits, returning time and again to the caravan park in Barmouth.

There’s an interview with Lisa Blower here

in which she discusses the aims of her portraits of this life, as told over such a long period of time.

One theme that struck me when listening to the interview was class.  Blower’s working class upbringing in Stoke-on-Trent, came across much more breezily in the interview than it did in the story.  Reader Rebekah Staton, although admirably sensitive and lightly Northern in her reading, came across as more mannered and posh than Blower herself.

The other thing that struck me was the character of the narrator’s sister, Louby.  I was struck by this because of the similarity with the sister character in my recent read Me Before You.   Both narrators in these stories have a messy approach to life; both have sisters who are cleverer and more decisive than they are, more sorted, more decisive.

Part of me wonders whether writers hesitate to show a main female character who is the clever, fierce and objectionable, in case it goes against reader sentiment, relegating these characters to a side show.  I hope this is not so and that it is a decision driven by narrative convenience – it is of course easier to write an interesting character who has some flaws to drive the action, and to overcome.

These are just thoughts of mine, and by no means detract from the enjoyment of half an hour spent listening to the radio.  The story is told in a very unfussy way, skimming over sadness like stones barely touching the surface of clear water.  It’s evocative and wise and moving and well worth a listen if you have half an hour.

One of things that prompted me to set this blog up was listening to a play on the radio and not having anyone to discuss it with. So if you have listened, what did you think of it? Please leave a comment and let me know.

All photos are Creative Commons licensed.  Click on pictures to see original.



  1. ‘skimming over sadness like stones barely touching the surface of clear water’. Denise, I love the way you write, so beautifully lyrical. Also, this play sounds really good, but as I said before, to my shame, I just don’t listen to radio plays. I should really make an effort then we could discuss! Are you going to be do any more on Great British Bake Off? What do you think, have you been watching it?

    • I’ve been watching but have a backlog of things I want to talk about! Maybe closer to the final… it was sad that Howard went. Lovely Daughter #2 and I both liked him. I like Christine too. I often think in these cookery comps the older, experienced female cooks are overlooked. It’s almost as if people *expect* them to be able to cook *anyway* and there is no exciting story there other than… they are pretty good cooks.

      • Yes, I was really sad to see Howard go, he made the show I thought it will be strange without him. Same with Christine. Everyone seems to rave about Ruby but she annoys me with the way she always puts herself down and then gets rave reviews anyway. Enough already! She is good and she knows it. Well, that’s my thought for the day 😉

  2. lloydie

    it was a really enjoyably good story, thank you lisa & so reminded me of our family caravan hols in barmouth in the 70’s

    • Thanks for visiting and your comment!
      It had all the ingredients – strong characters and beautiful images of the sea and caravan.

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