ILKLEY writer Mandy Sutter’s latest novel was inspired by her childhood in West Africa.

Bush Meat explores the experiences of black, white, indigenous and ex-pat communities across continents and over three generations. The compelling novel, which won the top prize at the New Welsh Writing Awards, is based on Mandy’s family in Nigeria in the mid-1960s.

The book delves into the experiences of Sarah and her family in south-eastern Nigeria, the memories of which are “scorched onto their hearts”.

“A days-old burial mound exposed as an ‘exploded diagram’ of bones picked clean by beasts. The narcotic puff let out from the freezer in the meat-man’s shack off the Ikot Ekpene road, where Maureen, Sarah’s lonely mother, gave up aspirations to be a ‘proper oil company wife’ to Jim and risked buying ‘bush meat’. The dry ‘snakeskin’ bark of the old iroko tree on the bend of the town’s river, under whose shade Jim sought sanctuary from people, and whose ‘two long white catkins the tree one day bestowed onto his head like confetti’...

It’s a beautifully written, evocative account of a family divided by racial prejudice and sexual discrimination in a shapshot of time half a world away, more than half a century ago.

A former director of Ilkley Literature Festival, Mandy went to school in Nigeria and now lives in Ilkley. Her debut novel was published more than two decades years after she started to write it. Despite finally securing an agent, publishers weren’t interested in her as a first-time novelist and she was advised to write another novel. “But somehow I couldn’t give up on my original manuscript,” says Mandy, who entered it in a competition and won a year’s free mentoring with a manuscript agency in London.

She re-wrote the novel as a comedy, and delved into her experiences of the dating scene. The result was Stretching It, a comic romp about a thirty-something woman who finds herself in a rut caring for her hypochondriac mother. She re-visited it several years later, sent it to a small publishing house, and finally saw it published in 2013.

In 2015 she released Old Blue Car, a touching and funny poetry collection, and has also co-written two non-fiction books about the lives of Somali women.

In Bush Meat she presents a microcosm of society in a changing world, and an atmospheric family saga that is touching and gripping, with flashes of dark humour.

“Back home, Jim swaps adventure and agency for woodwork, and more whisky. Maureen, denying her love of Igbo crafts and cloth, considers re-inventing herself as an Oxfam shop assistant. In the days before her grandmother’s funeral, Sarah finds the platitudes of her father evasive compared to the wisdom and ritual taught by servant Chidike while burying the household monkey. Sarah’s hard-won Nigerian barter goods, a silver thumb-ring and a dare taken to eat fried-fat market snack, became devalued. At Aba’s Sancta Maria, unaccustomed food was a cone of hot roast groundnuts paid for by a penny with a hole...”

Emma Clayton

* AT night in the jungle, a storm rages and the baby animals are too scared by the thunder, lightning and wind to sleep. But Mama Elephant explains and soothes their fears, explaining how the natural phenomena help to nourish the natural world. In her children's book You're Safe With Me, British-Indian writer Chitra Soundar addresses the universal concerns of youngsters with reassurance, infusing Mama Elephant's parental wisdom with a gentle rhythm. Yet this tale's most memorable traits are Mistry's mesmerising illustrations; beautiful to follow with the eye, at times so gracefully curving that it takes a few moments to distinguish the creatures from the background. Smaller children may struggle to identify some animals, but this could also become a 'hide and seek' game. You're Safe With Me stands out among the simple, brightly coloured drawings that are hallmarks of the genre. Natalie Bowen