John O'Loughlin was born in Salthill, Galway City, the Republic of Ireland in 1952 of mixed Irish- and British-born parents of Irish descent. Following a parental split while still a child, he was taken to England by his mother and maternal grandmother (who had initially returned to Ireland after a lengthy absence with intent to stay) in the mid-50s and subsequently attended schools in Aldershot, Oakham, and, upon the death and repatriation of his Galway-born grandmother, Carshalton Beeches, Surrey, where, despite an enforced change of denomination from Catholic to Protestant in consequence of having been put into care by his mother, he attended a state school. Upon leaving Carshalton High School for Boys in 1970 with an assortment of CSEs (Certificate of Secondary Education) and GCEs (General Certificate of Education), including history and music, he moved the comparatively short distance up to London and went on to work at the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in Bedford Square, where, after a lengthy period as a general clerk, he was promoted to clerical officer grade one with responsibility for booking examination venues throughout the UK. After a brief flirtation with further education at Redhill Technical College back in Surrey, where he had enrolled as a history student, he returned to his former job in the West End but retired from the ABRSM in 1976 due to a combination of factors, including ill-health, and proceeded to dedicate himself to a literary vocation which, despite a brief spell as a computer tutor at Hornsey YMCA in the late 1980s and early '90s, he has effectively continued with ever since. His novels include Changing Worlds (1976), Cross-Purposes (1979), Thwarted Ambitions (1980), Sublimated Relations (1981), False Pretences (1981) and Deceptive Motives (1982). Since the mid-80s Mr O'Loughlin has exclusively dedicated himself to philosophy, his true literary vocation, and has penned more than sixty titles of a philosophical nature, including Devil and God - The Omega Book (1985-6), Towards the Supernoumenon (1987), Elemental Spectra (1988-9), Philosophical Truth (1991-2), Maximum Truth (1993), and, more recently, The Centre of Truth (2009), and Musings of a Superfluous Man (2011).
Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.
Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.
Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.
Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.
This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.