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Kamila Shamsie at the Wimbledon Bookfest

Kamila Shamsie is not the sort of speaker I had been hoping to see this week. She was frighteningly accomplished. Perhaps she should be. The author of five published novels, she is six years younger than me. By my rather crude calculations, she must have had her first novel published when she was in her mid-twenties. What would I have had to write about at that age? I barely knew who I was. She has also lectured at university in the States, a hard crowd to please, I would imagine. Like a comedienne on tour, she managed to deliver answers that she must have given many times over with such a light touch and freshness that it was as if she had not rehearsed the answers.  I enjoyed her story about when she first knew when she wanted to become a writer. She was nine years old and she had just worked out that being a ‘reader’ wasn’t an option. I enjoyed her story about how, having previous divided her time between Pakistan, America and London, she has come to base herself in London. She had a hankering after a set of really good kitchen knives and, because of the expense, she couldn’t really justify buying three. Constantly taking a set of sharp knives through customs between Pakistan, America and London wasn’t really an option so… I even enjoyed her story of how she came to be half an hour late and her exasperation that she could have got to Paris quicker than it took her to travel from North London to Wimbledon by taxi. Because that is what she is: a story teller. Whether it is on paper or in the spoken word. I have yet to read her novel, Burnt Shadows, shortlisted for the Orange Prize this year. I strongly suspect that it will be frightening accomplished.