Author Archives: Sarah

What can you buy for 99p these days?


getting the picture sarah Salway


I’m delighted that my novel is in the Amazon Kindle deal this month, currently edging up the bestselling charts for Ageing (No 6) and Personal Health (No 34). Although hopefully it’s a bit funnier and a bit more interesting that that sounds!

In the meantime, here are some reviews I treasure so much, I’ll bring them out again and again. I know you’ve seen them before, you’ll probably see them again too.. BUT HONESTLY… ONLY 99p!!

‘Getting The Picture astutely probes the quotidian eeriness of that other planet that is old age and a life recollected. Marvelous.’ William Gibson

‘The best novels seduce the reader, so allow the wonderful chorus of voices in Sarah Salway’s Getting The Picture to do just that. Let them whisper secrets, plans and mysteries; of the past, of the present. Let their possible futures come into focus for a celebratory final picture. This novel is uplifting, sinister and beautiful.’ Tiffany Murray

‘One of the smartest, wittiest writers of present times, and I recommend anything by her. Getting The Picture is just great. I couldn’t get through a page without smiling or laughing aloud… there is one photography session where an old man and woman meet with a camera between them that is riveting; Salway adds layers to it in the retelling, so that the poignancy of the event overtakes the humor. I can’t stop thinking about the state of mind of the 79 year old woman who lowers her shirt for the camera. All these old people still want to be seen, and to reveal themselves. Salway is a wonder at detail – small moments from all her books are permanently embedded in my mind. Don’t know how she does it, but it’s marvelous.’ Alice Elliott Dark

‘Sarah Salway is an astonishingly smart writer. Her fiction is always beautifully structured, touching and clever. She manages the trick of creating characters you care about in stories you admire. I can’t wait to see what she does next.’ Neil Gaiman.

A Quiet Inquisition

Death’s on my mind at the moment, not least because of a funeral later this week. It’ll be a joyful celebration of a funeral (hopefully) for a life well-lived and well-loved where we’ve been instructed to come in bright colours and wellies and to carry daffodils as we meet up in the forest where she will be buried.


But last night, I came up against another sort of death. The documentary, A Quiet Inquisition, is about the challenges faced by doctors in the public hospitals in Nicaragua now that even therapeutic abortions have been banned. Do they try to save the mother, or obey the law to the letter and refuse to ‘interrupt’ an unhealthy pregnancy, even when both mother and child will then be at risk?

The film was quiet only in the respect it showed to the patients and doctors it portrayed. We saw them opening up to each other in a way that made me think the directing was masterly. At no stage did you feel the camera was intruding even in this very private moment, although obviously all those portrayed had given their permission to be filmed. Which was important, given that in some cases, they could be prosecuted. Part of the problem is that the girls – some we saw were as young as thirteen – had tried to end their pregnancies, but were too scared to tell the doctors because it was illegal. How could the doctors then know what to do to save their lives? The doctor above, Dr Carla Ceratto, was definitely the star of the film. Faced sometimes with up to 60 patients a day, she remained personal and open to what they were going through. And it’s important to remember that the women coming to her were emergency cases; she wasn’t looking after normal healthy pregnancies. Her vocation is truly one of love. She wasn’t against the government at all, in fact we heard how she could only become a doctor at all because of the revolution in 1979 and the subsequent government by the Sandinista National Liberation Front. Times change though, and Dr Ceratto has treated women both when abortion was legal, and now it is not. It was wonderful to see such a brave, caring and altogether human doctor on screen, and yet also chilling to see how political decisions can affect lives so clearly. Obviously we know they do – look at our NHS – but the lack of emotion over the consequences to ordinary people really hit home when I watched a thirteen year old pregnant girl on screen try to hide her fear over what might happen to her.

And she’s not alone. Here are some figures from the Pulitzer Centre: In Nicaragua the number of girls between the ages of 10 and 14 who give birth has risen by 48 percent since 2000, according to government statistics. One in every four births here is to a girl between the ages of 15 and 19. It is young women, especially those in poor rural regions, who suffer most under this law.

Throughout the film, the focus was not on whether abortion was right or wrong, but instead how the medical profession copes when they have to bring in legal issues to their calling of saving lives. I left thinking of both the individuals in the film and also the wider issue of law and medicine.


The film is directed by Holen Sabrina Kahn and Alessandra Zeka, both seen in the middle above during the Q&A. It is truly a work of love as I can testify – having been with Holen WAY BACK in 2006 when she got the call that they had received their first chunk of funding. Now, nearly ten years later, the film can be seen. It’s on tonight, Thursday 26th March, at the Ritzy Brixton as part of the Human Rights Film Festival – tickets here, but will also be available more publicly from the end of April. You can follow the website for more information.

And on the way to the screening, another look at death. This time the wall of tributes to those who have died saving the lives of others at the Postman’s Park, near St Pauls. I’ve been so often, I now have my favourite. Here he is, not forgotten.


I cannot write a novel today because….

I cannot write a novel today because…
my friend is writing poetry for gerbils and I need to watch the letter box for the manuscript, small and brown…
the towels in my airing cupboard cry out to be arranged not just by size and colour, but fluffiness, fraying and the frisson of pleasure they give against warm damp skin.

I cannot write a novel today because somewhere, out there, the perfect shoes exist – red, patent leather, kitten heeled, whimsical lacing and my feet are restless with longing…
the sofa groans with undiscovered treasures fallen down the creases, chocolate coins, half smoked cigarettes, a tiny china rabbit…
I feel the urge for urban archaeology.

I cannot write a novel today because the dog seems depressed, not in touch with his inner wolf. I try to cheer him up by baying at the moon, it’s the least I can do…
somebody has updated their Facebook status – a photograph of mashed potatoes, onion gravy, steaming sausages – and I need to comment. Delicious!…

I cannot write a novel today because the horse needs me to stand, one foot resting on a gate, my chin against the sun-warmed metal of the fastening, watching her eat grass…
the rubber ducks are in disarray, facing the wrong way on the bathroom shelf. If ignored, a disaster will certainly follow.

I cannot write a novel today because the biscuit tin contains only cut-price, own label plain digestives…
there are blue pens in the black pen jar and felt tips with the wrong colour lids and Duplo in the Lego box and the My Little Ponies are missing their mane combs.

I cannot write a novel today.
I didn’t write one yesterday.

But tomorrow… ah tomorrow….

What every writer wants….

Please excuse the brief boasting, but I’ve been so happy to see the reviews for my novel, Getting the Picture on Amazon.


Such as this one: This book was not the cosy love-in-an-old-people’s-home tale i was expecting. It was far richer, odder and more sinister than that, weaving in a story of decades of love and obsession.

YAY! Odder and more sinister. That’s the way I like it…

And there’s this: ‘How did two girls as young as us get so old?’ seventy-nine year old resident Flo asks her friend, but they ‘still have the power … to make good things happen’. Their bones may be old but they still have the spirit to tango, arrange liaisons for others and fall in love. This novel defies the notion that we diminish as we age. Heartily recommended to all, it should provoke some interesting discussions for book groups.

And this: There is poetry in the stories and an underlying sexual frisson.

It’s not just that people ‘get’ what the book is about that makes me so happy – but more that they have bothered to both read and review my book.

Bloggers too, here, and here and this one, here, from when the book was first published.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I can’t begin to tell you just how much it’s appreciated, and I don’t take any of it for granted. I know how busy everybody is.

And here’s a little something in return, from the ‘That’s Not My Age’ website, Bolivian Grandma’s playing handball. I can just see Flo doing this…


Where can maps take us….

To a beautiful piece of art, for one thing… … and like many maps, this one keeps changing and growing as more people contribute to it. This is the work of artist, Susie Leiper and I was lucky enough to see it this weekend on show at the VAS:T 2015 exhibition in Edinburgh. It was…Continue Reading

Getting the Picture finally comes home

‘Getting The Picture astutely probes the quotidian eeriness of that other planet that is old age and a life recollected. Marvelous.’ WILLIAM GIBSON ‘The best novels seduce the reader, so allow the wonderful chorus of voices in Sarah Salway’s Getting The Picture to do just that. Let them whisper secrets, plans and mysteries; of the…Continue Reading

Armchair Exploring 4 – Japan

My love for The Pillow Book has been well-documented, and when I started to count how many Japanese writers I have on my ‘loved books’ shelf, I must admit I was surprised. Latest addition are the short stories of Yoko Ogawa. But while I didn’t pick her, because I’ve read her stories so recently, do…Continue Reading