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Loudon, Mary 1966-

Loudon, Mary 1966-

PERSONAL:

Born November, 1966; married Andrew St. George (a public relations consultant and author); children: one daughter.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Oxfordshire, England; Wye Valley, England. Agent—Capel & Land Ltd., 29 Wardour St., London W1D 6PS, England.

CAREER:

Journalist, writer, and poet. Has appeared on radio and television programs, primarily in Great Britain on British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) shows.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Society of Authors awards (two).

WRITINGS:

(Editor) Unveiled: Nuns Talking, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1992.

Revelations: The Clergy Questioned, H. Hamilton (London, England), 1994.

Secrets and Lives: Middle England Revealed, Macmillan (London, England), 2000.

Relative Stranger: A Life after Death (memoir), Canongate (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor of articles and book reviews to periodicals, including the New Statesman, Sydney Morning Herald, Tablet, Catholic Herald, Times Literary Supplement, British Medical Journal, and the London Times.

SIDELIGHTS:

Mary Loudon is a journalist, poet, and the author or editor of several books. Loudon's first two books are interview-based and focus on nuns and the clergy. As editor of Unveiled: Nuns Talking, Loudon presents interviews with ten nuns—from both the Anglican and Roman churches—whose lives vary widely, from a barefoot contemplative and a church official to an artist and a surrogate mother. In addition to presenting the interviews in which the nuns talk about their lives and faith, the author writes about her own views on established religion and her struggles with faith. "The intimacy that so pervades this book elicits faith, not to mention respectful affection and benediction," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor.

In Revelations: The Clergy Questioned, the author provides a series of interviews with various members of the clergy, including Anglican bishops and priests. The interviewees include openly gay clergy, a black vicar who has encountered racism, and two women priests. In the interviews, the clergy tell their own stories of faith and relate their views concerning everything from Christianity to politics. They also provide insights into their personal lives and foibles, such as the clergyman whose car is vandalized and who insults his own parishioners as a result. Another clergyman, who is a vicar but was a former policeman, wants to castrate all rapists. Kirsty Milne, writing in the New Statesman and Society, referred to Revelations as "absorbing and intimate" adding in the same review: "The interviews themselves are well-crafted and interesting."

Loudon's next book, Secrets and Lives: Middle England Revealed, is based on interviews with residents of a small rural community in Oxfordshire, England. This time, the author presents the viewpoints of ordinary everyday citizens living primarily a British rural life. Overall, the author includes sixty personal stories from people living in the market town where the author herself grew up. In an article in the New Statesman, titled "The Real Roost of Middle England," Charlie Lee-Potter referred to Secrets and Lives, noting that the author's "three years of research produced discrete portraits of people who sell shoes, take drugs, contemplate suicide, turn their sons in to the police and get divorced. In other words, it didn't produce a homogeneous mass of anything. It produced individual human beings."

In her 2006 book Relative Stranger: A Life after Death, the author relates the story of her sister, Catherine Loudon, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age, became estranged from her family, renamed herself Steve, dressed as a man, and ultimately died from breast cancer at the age of forty-seven in the British Royal Infirmary in 2001. As described by the author in her book, Loudon has not seen her sister in more than decade until she goes to the mortuary to view body. Nevertheless, as she touches her dead sister's hand through plastic sheeting, she feels compelled to not forget her but rather unearth her sister's life during all those years she spent away from the Loudon family, which includes five siblings. In the process, Loudon also writes about how her sister's illness affected her family not only in the long term but also on a day-to-day basis.

"Mary compares the process of writing about a loved one to a doctor removing for donation the eyes of a patient he has known well (her father once did this): dispassionate professionalism short-circuiting sadness," noted Lesley White in a review of Relative Stranger in the London Times. "On the contrary (and to its great advantage), her book heaves with emotional involvement." Writing in CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, Gail Beck noted: "This book forces the reader to reflect on his or her own views of mental illness and the dignity that can be lost when one suffers from a mental illness. Mary Louden's own reflection and remembrance demand this from the reader."

In her book, Loudon reveals that her sister was a talented artist who also cared deeply about global issues. As the author explores the unknown aspects of her sister's life through letters, journals, and interviews with the few people who knew her well, Loudon not only traces the course of her sister's illness but also the author's own feelings about it. Noting that the author's "book is a personal journey that she had to make to put to rest the ghosts and demons," Leyla Sanai went on in her review in the Lancet to note that Relative Stranger "is also a perceptive and sensitive exploration of the judgments that society makes on the value of people's lives." In the process of describing her sister's life and her own imperfect reaction to it, Loudon also provides a wealth of information about schizophrenia.

Elizabeth Brinkley, writing in the Library Journal, called Relative Stranger "a finely written ode to a tough, indomitable woman." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that the "work is distinguished—and, ironically, made powerfully personal—by her objectivity in addressing the emotional, philosophical and poetic conclusions."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Loudon, Mary, Relative Stranger: A Life after Death, Canongate (New York, NY), 2006.

PERIODICALS

Biography, summer, 2006, M.A.C. Farrant, review of Relative Stranger, p. 529.

CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, January 30, 2007, Gail Beck, "Finding a Sister Lost to Mental Illness," review of Relative Stranger, p. 353.

Contemporary Review, August, 2001, review of Secrets and Lives: Middle England Revealed, p. 122.

Entertainment Weekly, July 13, 2007, Tina Jordan, review of Relative Stranger, p. 74.

Guardian Weekly (London, England), November 14, 1993, review of Unveiled: Nuns Talking, p. 28.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2007, review of Relative Stranger.

Lancet, February 4, 2006, Leyla Sanai, "A Story of Siblings and Schizophrenia," review of Relative Stranger, p. 388.

Library Journal, October 15, 1993, Sandra Collins, review of Unveiled, p. 68; June 1, 2007, Elizabeth Brinkley, review of Relative Stranger, p. 135.

London Times, February 26, 2006, Lesley White, "Memoir, Tribute, or Slice of Therapy," review of Relative Stranger.

New Statesman, May 24, 2004, Charlie Lee-Potter, "The Real Roost of Middle England."

New Statesman & Society, July 31, 1992, Karen Armstrong, review of Unveiled, p. 34; June 10, 1994, Kirsty Milne, review of Revelations: The Clergy Questioned, p. 38.

Observer, (London, England), November 29, 1992, review of Unveiled, p. 2; July 8, 2001, review of Secrets and Lives, p. 18.

Publishers Weekly, October 11, 199, review of Unveiled, p. 40.

Spectator, September 23, 2000, review of Secrets and Lives, p. 58.

Times Educational Supplement, December 10, 1993, review of Unveiled, p. 28; May 19, 2000, Gillian Brennan, review of Secrets and Lives, p. FRI22.

Times Literary Supplement, April 9, 1993, Barbara Godlee, review of Unveiled, p. 8; March 24, 1995, D.W. Johnson, review of Revelations, p. 9; July 7, 2000, review of Secrets and Lives, p. 4; April 7, 2006, "The Top Layer," review of Relative Stranger, p. 29.

ONLINE

Capel & Land,http://www.capelland.com/ (February 4, 2008), profile of author.

Random House,http://www.randomhouse.ca/ (February 4, 2008), brief profile of author.

Timeout.com,http://www.timeout.com/ (February 4, 2008), Lisa Mullen, review of Relative Stranger.

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