Pears, Tim 1956–
Pears, Tim 1956–
PERSONAL: Born November 15, 1956, in Tonbridge Wells, Kent, England; son of W.S. Pears (an Anglican priest) and Jill (Charles-Edwards) Scurfield; married; children: two. Education: Graduated from National Film and Television School, London, England, 1993. Politics: "As liberal as possible in a cruel world." Religion: "Still searching."
ADDRESSES: Home—Oxford, England. Agent—AM Heath & Co. Ltd., 79 St. Martin's Ln., London WC2N 4RE, England.
CAREER: Writer. Worked variously as a construction laborer, nurse in a mental hospital, bodyguard, house painter, security guard, farm worker, house decorator, night porter, and manager of an art gallery.
MEMBER: Ebony International.
AWARDS, HONORS: Ruth Hadden Memorial Award, 1993, and Hawthornden Prize, Hawthornden Trust, 1994, both for In the Place of Fallen Leaves; Lannan Literary Award (fiction), Lannan Foundation, 1996.
In the Place of Fallen Leaves, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1993.
In a Land of Plenty, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1997.
A Revolution of the Sun, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2001.
Wake Up, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2002.
ADAPTATIONS: The novel In a Land of Plenty was filmed for the British Broadcasting Corporation ten-part television drama series and broadcast in 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: Tim Pears is the author of In the Place of Fallen Leaves, which he described to CA as a novel "about home and leaving home, about being at home and being in exile," and, more specifically, as the story of "an adolescent coming to understand her world and her place in it." The novel's heroine is thirteen-year-old Alison, who lives in a farming community with her family, including an eccentric grandmother and a somewhat deranged father. During the particularly hot summer of 1984, Alison befriends Jonathan, son of an impoverished aristocrat living nearby. While troubles develop among striking miners and similarly dissatisfied teachers, Alison and Jonathan prosper in the rural countryside, where they share experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
In the Place of Fallen Leaves also abounds with memorable secondary characters. Alison's father, for instance, is an endearing amnesiac whose brain has rotted from alcohol, and Alison's grandmother is a similarly loveable sort who holds some rather peculiar beliefs about time and magnetic fields. Also significant is Pam, Alison's sister, who forsakes the countryside for academic pursuits. Pam, as Giles Foden reported in the Independent, "presents a kind of sexual example for Alison or, maybe, a warning."
Upon its publication in 1993, In the Place of Fallen Leaves won widespread acclaim in England, where it was hailed as a significant literary debut. London Times reviewer Penny Perrick described the novel as "astounding," and A.S. Byatt asserted in the London Telegraph that Pears's story "is entirely satisfying." Byatt added that the work is "comic, and wry, and elegiac, and shrewd and thoughtful all at once." Foden declared that In the Place of Fallen Leaves is "technically sophisticated" and "an unusually well-made novel." Martyn Bedford wrote in the Oxford Times that with In the Place of Fallen Leaves Pears has produced "a moving and beautifully written book." Pears's novel, Bedford concluded, "is an utterly convincing portrayal of the life and times of the Devon countryside, deeply evocative and rich with sensuous imagery—sad and funny … but never mawkish."
In a Land of Plenty also uses the concept of home as part of its plot. Pears's book centers on the Freemans, headed by Charles and Mary (nee Wyndham) Freeman. Beginning with their wedding in 1952 and purchase of an old mansion, Pears constructs an epic story. The mansion overlooks a small town in Great Britain where the often difficult Charles runs a factory that he inherits. The factory employs many who live in the community and affords a privileged life for the family. Pears explores the lives and relationships of the children, James, Simon, Robert, and Alice, their friends, relatives, and townspeople in the text. Particular attention is paid to James, who has a physical deformity and becomes interested in photography. This hobby is used to illuminate some of the themes of the novel. Barbara Love in the Library Journal commented: "In this great big novel … Pears … affords his characters the luxury of time and space to become fully realized."
Pears explores a very different topic in Wake Up: genetic engineering and the concept of progress through science. In the short novel, narrator John Sharpe has taken his family potato company and made a deal with a genetics firm to develop vaccines in plants that can be eaten. Unfortunately, people being used in secret human trials on the vaccines have been dying, creating dilemmas for John. While dealing with this crisis by driving in circles and avoiding his workplace, John reflects on his past. During his reflections, he continually admits to lying about certain aspects of his life and corrects himself over and over again. Emma Tristram of the Times Literary Supplement concluded: "Tim Pears has created an impressive, subtle and serious book, lifted from a preaching tone by the personality of its narrator—a combination of poet, Ancient Mariner, and pub bore."
Pears told CA: "I left school at sixteen knowing only that I wanted to be a poet. For ten years I did all kinds of jobs and wrote a lot of awful poetry. Then one day I transposed a poem into a short story and set it in the tiny Devon village in which I'd grown up. It was a moment of liberation: Writing was no longer simply an intellectual process; it became physical, the world of my adolescence vividly recalled—I could smell the lanes after the rain, hear a mother calling her children in for tea, touch the sharp blades of grass we blew notes from through our fingers.
"I wrote no more poems but many stories and set them all in this small village. I found that there was nothing that interested me which couldn't be adapted to fit into this world. The stories developed eventually into In the Place of Fallen Leaves.
"I think human beings are preoccupied by the same things they've always been preoccupied with: Where do we come from, why are we here, where are we going? How should we live our lives? What are our hopes, responsibilities, dreams? How can we love and be loved? The things that spring us from sleep at night in a state of misery or joy. I want to create characters I love and explore their lives."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Independent (London, England), April 4, 1993, Giles Foden, review of In the Place of Fallen Leaves.
Library Journal, December, 1997, Barbara Love, review of In a Land of Plenty, p. 155.
Oxford Times, April 23, 1993, Martyn Bedford, review of In the Place of Fallen Leaves.
Telegraph (London, England), March 27, 1993, A.S. Byatt, review of In the Place of Fallen Leaves.
Times (London, England), March 28, 1993, Penny Perrick, review of In the Place of Fallen Leaves.
Times Literary Supplement, August 16, 2002, Emma Tristram, "Monster on the Ring Road," review of Wake Up, p. 20
Bloomsbury Web Site, http://www.bloomsbury.com/ (October 7, 2005), biography of Tim Pears.
British Council Arts Contemporary Writers Web Site, http://www.contemporarywriters.com/ (October 7, 2005), biography of Tim Pears.