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The Emperor's Last Stand is a book about St Helena, an island with a sad, strange history, and about the tangle of stories and myths, absurdities and simple facts that have accumulated around Napoleon and his sojourn here. It follows him through the eyes of those who lived with him, who guarded him, who managed only to catch a brief glimpse of him, alive or dead.
It is also a personal account: a description of Julia Blackburn's own journey to St Helena and at the same time a journey through the private memories and associations evoked by the telling of this poignant and curious story.
Winner of the J. R. Ackerley Award
This is the story of three people: Julia Blackburn, her father Thomas and her mother Rosalie. Thomas was a poet and an alcoholic, who for many years was addicted to barbiturates; Rosalie, a painter, was sociable and flirtatious. After her parents were divorced, Julia's mother took in lodgers, always men, on the understanding that each should become her lover. When one of the lodgers started an affair with Julia, Rosalie was devastated; when he later committed suicide the relationship between mother and daughter was shattered irrevocably.
Or so it seemed until the spring of 1999, when Rosalie, diagnosed with leukaemia, came to live with Julia for the last month of her life.
'Wandering through dreams and nightmares from Praslin Islands to Mauritius and finally to England, the author unfolds the troubled lives of her forbears, cursed by racial prejudice, sexual inhibition and recurrent mental illness. This first novel is a powerfully and cleverly written expurgation of personal feelings, drawing the reader into a landscape like that of a Dali painting' - Eileen Cowey, Scotland on Sunday
The Book of Colour is about childhood, about madness, about the fear of miscegenation - and about a pig. It establishes Julia Blackburn as one of the most original English writers since Chatwin. It was shortlisted for The Orange Prize 1996.
To escape from her own sadness, a woman finds refuge in a past time. In a village by the sea she watches the lives of the inhabitants unfold around her. But the year is now 1410 and this is a world of devils and miracles, a world in which there are no clear boundaries between reality and the power of the imagination.
A man's discovery of a mermaid washed up on the sand starts a chain of events that leads three of the villagers to accompany the enigmatic figure of the leper on a pilgrimmage to the Holy Land. The woman joins them and sets out without the certainty of ever coming home again.
The Leper's Companions was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.
'This is a raw, true book that evokes not just the life of the great singer Billie Holiday but an entire jazz era....' Mail on Sunday
Julia Blackburn's brilliant and haunting book is a life of Billie Holiday told in the voices of those who knew her.
During the 1970s a young woman called Linda Kuehl, planning to write a biography of Billie, recorded interviews with more than 150 people. Kuehl died in 1978 and her book never came out, but her recordings survived to provide the raw material for this extraordinary account of the life of America's First Lady of Jazz.
These same recordings have been used as the basis for the 2020 film, Billie.
Billie Holiday is usually portrayed as a tragic victim of her own vices. These intimate stories give us a much deeper picture of her personality - we witness scenes from her chaotic childhood; we see her when she first arrives in Harlem at the age of fourteen; and we follow her through her rise to fame and into the notoriety that came so close on its heels.
Billie's friends and lovers and fellow musicians talk about her troubles and her addictions, but they also have a lot to say about her warmth and her courage, and the ones who were really close to her understood that although she had a lot of men and drugs and booze in her life, all that really mattered was the singing.
PRAISE FOR WITH BILLIE:
'Gives a far more complete idea of Holiday as an artist than anything else I have read, GuardianJulia Blackburn's book gives a far more complete idea of Holiday as an artist than anything else I have read' Guardian
'This addition to the tide of Billie Holiday books is extremely welcome. Nowhere else is the context of her life and work so vividly captured' Toni Morrison
'Full of vigour and colour...Ms Blackburn's portrait of a unique artist is moving, revealing and quite unforgettable' Economist