Samantha Harvey is the author of four novels, The Wilderness, All Is Song, Dear Thief and The Western Wind, and a memoir, The Shapeless Unease.
Her novels have been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Guardian First Book Award, the Walter Scott Prize and the James Tait Black Prize, and longlisted for the Baileys Prize, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize, the HWA Gold Crown Award and the Man Booker Prize. The Western Wind won the 2019 Staunch Book Prize and The Wilderness was the winner of the AMI Literature Award and the Betty Trask Prize.
She lives in Bath, UK, and is a Reader in creative writing at Bath Spa University.
As a people-loving introvert, my perfect thing in life is to be in a room on my own, in a house filled with people. These other people will be talking or listening to music or clattering pans, and I can be part of that if I like, but I have around me this room, which is mine, and I can be in it writing, drawing, reading alone.
And so, Santa Maddalena was, for me, a perfect thing. There were my tower mates, Christoph and then Francisco – the silences that denoted them working, the distant sing-song of them talking to people back home, the rush of gas flame in the making of coffee. There was the knowledge that across the lawn was the house and Rasika, Emma, Riccardo, Beatrice, plus dog, dog, dog and dog. Fire and food. A guest here and there. A night up late around the table with wine and bourbon, singing Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu. The Italians among us arguing in passionate cadences about the comparative virtues of differently shaped pasta. A clandestine trip to The Mall. Toasting each lunchtime the best bread in Donnini.
But then, in the hours of solitude each day, just me, the desk, my laptop, the olive branches in a vase given to me by Christoph, and a disk of lamplight. For the three weeks I was at Santa Maddalena I felt I had a love affair with my novel. I wrote with intensity, happiness and freedom. There’s no gift like it – the gift of this ineffable mix of peace and time, and when one day I win the Nobel Prize, this blessed stay will feature in my acceptance speech (should I choose to accept). To Beatrice and all the wonderful people at Santa Maddalena who helped make this possible, I’ll say, thank you from the depths of my heart.