Stevie Davies, who comes from Morriston, Swansea, is a novelist, literary critic, biographer and historian.
She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the Academi Gymreig and
Creative Writing at the University
of Wales, Swansea.
Stevie's new novel, The Party Wall - a slow-burning psychological thriller – was launched by Honno on September 17th 2020. The National Library of Wales will feature Stevie as 'Author of the Month' in October.
See The Party Wall on Amazon
‘It's a timely book in the extreme as men who lie with a penchant for self-aggrandisement seem to be the ugly pin-ups of the age – think Trump, Johnson, Cummings – who, whatever their legion faults can still spin a line sufficient to hook many a listener, or voter. You can imagine them back slapping Mark, whose pathological bent for deceit and need for control would allow him to fit right in. He's therefore very much an anti-hero for our time, a champion of the blatant lie and a reptilian manipulator extraordinaire ... [ The Party Wall ] consolidates her already rock-solid reputation as a superb novelist, who uses precise language to examine the world and its vagaries with all the skill, wisdom and dexterity of a heart surgeon slowly probing an aorta, testing the very pulse of life.'
Jon Gower, ‘An anti-hero for the age of Trump and Johnson', Nation Cymru, 20th September 2020
‘Mark lives next door to Freya. When her husband dies, he determines on being her saviour, come what may. But as he ingratiates himself with Freya, she begins to realise that Mark's motives might not be as compassionate as they seem. The 14th novel by the award-winning Davies is her first to be published by Aberystwyth-based publisher Honno ... while it certainly has you frantically turning the pages, there is also great psychological depth, and humour too.'
Caroline Sanderson, ‘This Week', Country Focus Wales, The Bookseller Magazine, June 2020
‘Davies's strength in this novel is undoubtedly the way she balances the contradictory forces in Mark's psyche: the massively damaged boy; the massively entitled and vicious man; the almost clinically self-aware intellect and the compulsive ego that harnesses his intelligence in pursuit of the control and destruction of women who are better than him morally, emotionally and creatively.'
Aidan Byrne, Planet: The Welsh Internationalist, 241 (2021)
Stevie's short story collection, Arrest Me, For I Have Run Away, published by Parthian,
was shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year Award 2019.
'Davies's narratorial confidence shows in her ability to establish a character in a few lines and unfold an entire scene in a paragraph. Along with this swift lightness, the language often encourages the reader to linger over certain sentences ... The engrossing realism that connects the stories in this collection also responds to the political atmosphere today ... Another element her stories have in common is a deep and generous portrayal of human beings. It is impossible not to care for her characters ... [a] dizzying array of stories, which push at the borders of the form. Among the offerings here are vignettes, monologues, long short fiction and nature writing: we move from ancient historical fiction to very modern tales. Reading this collection is like boarding a small boat in a shining blue sea, wondering which island you'll be visiting next.'
Eluned Gramich, Planet: The Welsh Internationalist, 231, Autumn 2018
‘Stevie Davies' ... Arrest Me, For I Have Run Away demonstrates both the strength of her literary imagination and the power of her impeccable prose ... Long may she continue writing, explaining us to ourselves, reminding us vividly of who we are and whence we come.'
Sarla Langdon, ‘Celebrating The Short Story' , The Bay Magazine, 97, February 2019
[A character in Arrest Me, For I Have Run Away ] ‘says,”There are so many kind of love, Pearl, I never realised”, and it is explorations of these different kinds of love which distinguishes Stevie Davies' collection ... In her stories, relationships are forged over lifetimes, or in bright moments of shared understanding. And they all carry within them the seeds of agonising loss ... Written and, in many cases, published in different forms over two decades, these stories are illustrative of Davies' wide range of narrative: voices and her ability to bring to our attention both the “chipped china” of everyday life and the wilder, more wilful moments of our experience.'
Helen Pendry, in Planet: The Welsh Internationalist, No. 237
novella, Equivocator, was published by Parthian
in April 2016
A stranger buttonholes Sebastian Messenger
at a conference on the Gower coast, opening up historic lies
and transgressions neither outgrown nor comprehended. The novella
is a study of fathers and sons, lovers and betrayers, truth
and mendacity, - whose global frame of reference stretches
from Gower to Iran, Germany to Egypt. Equivocator deals
in irony and the confabulations of memory, combining dark
fable, satire and a gay love story. The emotional
centre of Equivocator is
Sebastian’s flawed but sincere love for Jesse: will
salvage be possible, in the light of the Messenger inheritance?
‘Davies skilfully interweaves the present
day scene with Sebastian's reminiscences: of his life as a
doctoral student in the dingy flats of Manchester suburbs;
of losing his virginity to a boy named Justin; of his mother's
stream of lovers after his father's death, ‘a parade of academics,
diplomats, journalists'. Davies possesses a considerable gift
in her ability to draw sharply delineated images and portraits,
and such instances ensure that this impressive novella – so
rooted in the past – retains dramatic urgency in its present
moment. Like Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach (2007), the full
emotional impact of the novella (a spry 92 pages) is best perceived
in one sitting. The modulations of Sebastian's voice as he
delves deeper into his father's life are adroitly articulated,
and Davies crafts a powerful story about the challenges of
dealing with the past.'
Michael Nott, The New Welsh Review, 2 April
Stevie's historical novel
Wiltshire 1860: One year after Darwin's explosive publication of The
Origin of Species, sisters Anna and Beatrice Pentecost awaken to a world shattered by science,
radicalism and the stirrings of feminist rebellion; a world of charismatic religious movements,
Spiritualist séances, bitter loss and medical trauma.
Fetishist of working women Arthur Munby, irascible antiquary General Pitt Rivers,
feminist Barbara Bodichon and other historical figures of the Victorian epoch wander through the
backdrop of the novel, as Anna's anomalous love for Lore Ritter and her friendship with freethinking
and ambitious Miriam Sala carry her into areas of uncharted desire - while Beatrice, forced to
choose between her beloved Will Anwyl and the evangelist Christian Ritter, who marked her out as
a wife when she was only a child, is pulled between passion and duty.
Each is riven by inner contradictions, but who will survive when the sisters fall
into a fatal conflict?
'If the past is a foreign country, it is also one whose inhabitants are divided
from us by a common language. Stevie Davies's latest novel, her twelfth, is charged with sensitivity
to the otherness of the past ... Davies's subtle account of sisterly love, jealousy and betrayal is
the heart of this novel, and the best thing in it ... Davies never simplifies their relationship ...
Like Charlotte Bronte in Shirley, Davies is funny and perceptive ... and her social comedy breathes
life into an oppressive world. She is lyrical and pitiless in her dissection of religious zeal. Awakening
burns with anger against the abuses of the past, while recognising that the present has no right to
condescend. The past may be a foreign country, but we all come from it.'
Helen Dunmore, The Guardian,
Saturday 24th August 2013. Read the full review.
'Davies weaves this intricate web of faltering, painful relationships with great skill and writes
very powerfully and movingly about the subtle half-tones and tentativeness of love, of childbirth,
of loss as well as the horribly intrusive shock of male Victorian medical practice towards women.
'The wider context of scientific revolution and religious revival - the Awakening of the title - is
explored with dry humour rather than outright mockery. The child preachers, spiritualists and fanatics
need only the gentlest of prods to provide their own satire; but at the heart of this book is the life
of Anna and Beatrice, which Davies has brought to life with unobtrusive mastery.'
Nicholas Murray, Independent 25 October 2013. Read the
'This is where Davies inspires awe - in her ability to get deep inside the relationships between women, winkling out the deceptions of self and other, the concealed insecurities, the deep bonds that nurture and annihilate. It has been evident in her earlier novels, but here she transcends herself. Her compassion is enormous as she portrays her blemished characters and allows them the ability to change.'
Suzy Ceulan Hughes, New Welsh Review, Issue 102, Winter 2013
'A thought-provoking book that captures the era ... [Awakening] is populated by some
eccentrics and mavericks and is at times very funny ... but the underlying message is serious.'
Rees, Western Mail, 22 September 2013.
'If you are as interested, as I am, in the position of women in the mid-19th
century, then Awakenings is a must-read. It is full of human insight into the nature of insanity,
motherhood and bereavement but is also funny. It's one of those rare novels that the more you read,
the more you discover. George Eliot would be impressed.'
Sally Zigmond, Historical Novel Society
Review Issue 64, May 2013. Read
the full review.
'There are times when the reader will hate Beatrice in this novel, times indeed,
when you will feel that in Beatrice, Davies has created one of the great literary monsters. However,
because Davies is interested in the complexity of truth rather than historical falsification, there
are times when we feel deep sorrow and even affection for Beatrice, thus enabling the creation of an
extraordinarily well-realised character. Beatrice herself describes the technique Davies uses to achieve
this, as she reflects on her own perception of Anna's behaviour when their stepmother died in childbirth
(the baby dying soon after):
There are times when you see into a soul. Quite nakedly. The core of a person is revealed, terrible
as the pink, nude heart of a field mouse Dr Quarles exposed in vivisection.
It is Davies' own epiphanic realisation of this nakedness and
her knowledge of how to find it in her characters which marks out her quality as an artist (although,
no doubt she would not use that word 'terrible'
as emotionally thwarted Beatrice tellingly does). It is also this realisation which serves as the driving
force behind the novel. Because this is what history rarely, if ever, shows: what it feels like to
be alive, and how events and actions can warp and diminish and expand and do all sorts of complicated
things to an individual's consciousness ...
Awakening, is a sad work but it is also a deeply moving and profound one. It is also a novel which
embodies its title; a title which, as well as reflecting the books setting, (the time of Darwin, the
beginnings of feminism, the time of variously oddball religious 'awakenings'), also reflects this writer's
deep concern with personal awakenings. Indeed, much like that interview with Davies that I attended
earlier in the year, you leave these pages feeling more fully conscious of yourself and the world around
you than you did when you began them. What more can you ask for from a book?'
John Lavin, Wales Arts
Review, Issue 18. Read the full review.
'The sisters, Anwyl and Ritter, the four central characters, come alive on the page and Stevie Davies' mimetic portrait of a civilisation on the cusp of change is impressive. These people and their context are constructed out of finely woven prose that balances scene, summary and interior monologue with great skill. By the end of Awakening, the reader has been granted considerable insights into women in nineteenth-century Britain and the society that shaped them.'
Robert Graham, The Warwick Review, December 2013
Stevie spoke about 'Awakening' at the Edinburgh Festival (10/08/13) with Jess Richards and Leslie McDowell
Stevie gave her inaugural professorial lecture, ‘“Experiments
in Life”: George Eliot and the Wisdom of Fiction' as part of the Research Institute
for the Arts and Humanities’ current public lecture series on 3 February 2011
at the Wallace Lecture Theatre, Swansea University.
For more information or to see the podcast of the lecture, click
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