Jim Crace was born in 1946 in Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire but grew up in London. After graduating from the Birmingham College of Commerce he went to Sudan with Voluntary Service Overseas – VSO where he worked in Sudanese television. On returning to England, he worked for the BBC and as a freelance journalist. His first stories were published in 1974 but his first novel – Continent – was not published in 1986. The financial success of this work enabled him to give up journalism and concentrate full-time on fiction. In an earlier review, I said that Crace may well be coming the best living English novelist. Clearly this has not happened, despite the fact that he has managed to show many areas where England has gone wrong, in a way his contemporaries have not really managed to do.