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And the prize goes to….

May 25, 2012

ALISON ALLEN-GRAY

I’ve just heard that my novel Unique came second out of ten teenage novels in Le Prix des Lecteurs du Mans et de la Sarthe. I daren’t ask how many votes separated first from second! However, the real prize was the tremendous buzz I got from going to Le Mans and meeting the French students.

There were many memorable moments during my trip, not least of which was my very first session with a class of 13-15 year-olds in a rural school. As I waited nervously in a classroom, I noted that a rather noisy hiatus was occurring outside in the corridor. The teacher was organising who should sit where, calling back students who had already entered the room, re-directing them and directing the re-arrangement of chairs and tables. I myself was re-arranged and asked to sit at the apex of the horseshoe of tables and chairs. I then gathered that I was to play the part of a Judge in a trial at the European Court.

Unique is a story about Dominic, who discovers that he is the first ever cloned human being. In the novel, there is a global prohibition on human cloning, transgression of which is punishable by the death penalty. Two of my characters – Dr Imogen Holt, who cloned Dominic, and Dominic’s father, Michael Gordon – have therefore taken a huge risk in doing what they do.

The students of this school had developed a ‘what-if’ from the story – that is to say, they had imagined what would happen if the European Court had put Dr Imogen Holt and Dominic’s parents on trial. The result was the courtroom scene at which I was the Judge. I sat enthralled for almost two hours as the students presented defence and prosecution arguments, some of which were emotionally charged and delivered with great passion and commitment. Characters were called as witnesses to tell their side of the story which, again, they did with moving intensity. Soon, I forgot that it is a thousand years since I studied French, and I found myself comprehending the range of complex arguments. I was quite overwhelmed – almost tearful, in fact – not only by the drama of the moment, but by the fact that these students had become so personally involved in the story and had reacted to it in such a thought-provoking way.

In fact, they provoked my thoughts so much that I think I’ll write the sequel that they so sincerely requested! So, although I didn’t win, I’m tremendously heartened by the experience. I gave the students something to think about and they gave me something to think about in return. What more could I ask for?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2012 12:59 pm

    I knew you were going to France for this prize-giving and thought about you when you were there. Thanks so much for telling us about the whole event. So wonderful that your excellent book has given so much food for thought and discussion!

  2. Susan Meggitt permalink
    May 27, 2012 1:30 pm

    Il n’y a pas un surpris. Votre roman est superb!!! xxxxx

  3. May 27, 2012 3:56 pm

    What a wonderful experience! You must be thrilled to bits.

  4. May 28, 2012 11:38 am

    One of the best things about the blog is hearing each other’s experiences – you must have been so proud, Alison.

  5. Alison Allen-Gray permalink
    May 30, 2012 9:36 pm

    Yes, I was – proud of the students, too. And thank you for adding a picture of the French edition cover, which I think is great.

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