Dean, Louise 1970–

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Dean, Louise 1970–

PERSONAL: Born June, 1970, in Hastings, East Sussex, England; married (divorced); married John Doig (a food-and-wine writer and advertising agency owner); children: Jules, Cass, Elsa Rose. Education: Downing College, Cambridge University, B.A., 1991.

ADDRESSES: Home—Provence, France. Agent—Gill Coleridge, Rogers, Coleridge & White, 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN, England. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writer, novelist, and advertising executive. Worked for Unilever (a consumer foods company); worked as a brand manager for Brooke Bond; worked in advertising, 1994–99; freelance writer, 1999–.

AWARDS, HONORS: Betty Trask Award for best first novel, Society of Authors, for Becoming Strangers.

WRITINGS:

Becoming Strangers, Scribner (London, England), 2004, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.

This Human Season, Scribner (London, England), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS: English novelist Louise Dean is a former advertising and marketing professional who turned to full-time freelance writing in 1999. Her first novel, Becoming Strangers, is a "deliciously misanthropic comedy about two disgruntled couples on what turns out to be a final holiday for them all," observed Lisa Allardice in the London Guardian. The couples, brought together during a Caribbean vacation, are Belgians Jan and Annemieke de Groot and Britons George and Dorothy Davis. The de Groots, the younger of the two couples, have been married for more than thirty years. After a six-year struggle with cancer, Jan has been diagnosed as a terminal patient. While Jan hopes to use the vacation to become closer to his wife, Annemieke instead drifts further away from him, seeking sexual gratification outside her marriage. The Davises are an older couple, married more than fifty years, who bicker and fuss constantly. Still, George recognizes his wife's good qualities, and realizes that she is not only his spouse, but also his friend. The older couple also faces illness as Dorothy enters the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease. Although the book "might have sunk under the weight of its themes of loss," Dean "suffuses it with a comic touch," noted Booklist reviewer Mary Ellen Quinn. In addition, Julie Myerson, writing in the New Statesman, called the book "an astonishingly assured debut."

Dean's second novel, This Human Season, is set in 1979 during the peak of a nearly three-decade period of civil-rights struggles and violent conflict in Ireland. The book focuses on two main characters. The first, John Dunn, is a former British soldier who has taken a job at Long Kesh, a prison also known as The Maze. There, Irish Republican Army captives are involved in a "dirty strike," rejecting clothing, ignoring hygiene, and refusing food in an organized protest against their captors. Kathleen Moran, the second main character, is the mother of a man imprisoned at The Maze. Though Dunn and Kathleen never meet, their stories intertwine as Dunn struggles to reconcile himself to the squalor of the prison, and as Kathleen works to maintain some type of hold over her family and her faith. "Credible characters and dialogue, the high tension of the political backdrop, and the personal family dilemmas of the protagonists all combine to make This Human Season a very powerful read," commented Benidicte Page in Bookseller. "This is a fine and thoughtful historical novel, which manages to find humor and decency in the most awful of places," concluded reviewer Lucy Hughes-Hallett in the London Sunday Times.

Dean told CA: "I want my books to convey both a sense of failure—tender and close at hand and threatening—along with its benefit, compassion."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 2005, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of Becoming Strangers, p. 29.

Bookseller, February 4, 2005, review of This Human Season, p. 29; February 25, 2005, Benidicte Page, "Life on the H-Blacks: Louise Dean's Striking Second Novel Is Set in Northern Ireland during the Dirty Protest," review of This Human Season, p. 32.

Guardian (London, England), May 1, 2005, Stephanie Merritt, "Troubles in Mind," review of This Human Season; May 14, 2005, Lisa Allardice, "The Amoral Maze," review of Becoming Strangers and This Human Season.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2005, review of Becoming Strangers, p. 992.

New Statesman, November 29, 2004, Julie Myerson, review of Becoming Strangers, p. 46.

Publishers Weekly, September 12, 2005, review of Becoming Strangers, p. 37.

Sunday Times (London, England), May 1, 2005, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, review of This Human Season.

ONLINE

Louise Dean Home Page, http://www.louisedean.com (January 15, 2006).