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Professor Alison MacLeod

Contemporary Fiction | +44 (0)1243 816297

Alison MacLeod is Professor of Contemporary Fiction at Chichester.  She has taught a wide range of both English literature and Creative Writing modules, and has a particular interest, both as a lecturer and as a supervisor, in contemporary literature and culture, modernist and postmodernist fiction, and developments within short fiction. 

She is a novelist, short story writer and essayist.  Her most recent book, the short story collection all the beloved ghosts (Bloomsbury and Penguin Canada), was named a Guardian 'Best Book of 2017' and was shortlisted for Canada's prestigious Governor General's Award for Fiction.  Her most recent novel, Unexploded (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Books), was long-listed for The 2013 Man-Booker Prize and selected as one of The Observer’s ‘Books of the Year’.  It was also adapted for BBC Radio 4, recorded as an audio book, and is optioned for film.  

Her previous works include the novels The Changeling (Macmillan, 1996) and The Wave Theory of Angels (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin 2005), and the short story collection, Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction (Penguin, 2007).  Her stories have been widely published in the UK and abroad, and are often broadcast on the BBC.  In 2008 she was awarded the Society of Authors’ Prize for Short Fiction, in 2011 she was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award, and in 2012 she was long-listed for The International Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award.  In 2016, she was jointly awarded the British Library Eccles Writer's Award.  For news of her upcoming public events, see .

Professor MacLeod has appeared at numerous literary festivals and conferences in the UK and internationally - Hong Kong, Jaipur, Toronto, Vienna.  Alongside her teaching and writing, she has served as judge for such literary awards as The International Frank O'Connor Short Fiction Award,  The Manchester Fiction Prize and The London Magazine Short Story Award.  She is Associate Editor of the international journal Short Fiction in Theory and Practice and Director of THRESHOLDS Online International Short Story Forum (

She is currently working on her next novel, which will be published by both Bloomsbury UK/USA and Penguin Canada.


“I welcome enquiries from potential Ph.D students.  My research specialisms include the contemporary novel, literary-historical or period fiction, ‘science and fiction’, modern, postmodern and millennial fiction, the fantastic, and the uncanny.”


2018  'Portrait: Eric Gill Dreaming', Sweet Talk Productions and  BBC Radio 4; broadcast 19 January 

2017   Short story collection, all the beloved ghosts (Bloomsbury UK/USA and Penguin Canada 2017); Japanese translation forthcoming

2017  'The Auspicious Hour', Singapore-based short story for Raffles Magazine International

2016  ‘Imagining Chekhov’,  showcase of three Chekhov-inspired short stories commissioned by BBC Radio 4

2014   commissioned story: ‘In Praise of Radical Fish’, producer Jeremy Osborne, Sweet Talk Productions  for BBC Radio 4, broadcast Oct. 7th

2013  Novel, Unexploded, Hamish Hamilton/Penguin UK

2013  Essay on the art of Katherine Mansfield for Morphologies (Comma Press)

2013  'Top 10 Stories of Infidelity’, the Guardian, 4 Sept 2013     

2013   Article on the short story form, ‘No Excess Baggage’, The Sunday Times Magazine

2013   Essay ‘Hearing Voices’ for Writing Your First Novel (Palgrave Macmillan)

2013   Essay on the short story form, ‘Writing and Risk-Taking’, for Short Circuit: A Guide to the  Art  of  the Short Story (Salt Publishing UK)

2012   Short story ‘There Are Precious Things’ for BBC Radio 3

2012   Short  story ‘Solo, A Cappella’ for BBC Radio 4

2011   Short story :‘The Heart of Denis Noble’ for Litmus: Short Stories from Modern Science, Comma Press, reprinted in The Sunday Times Magazine                   online edition; shortlisted for The BBC National Short Story Award, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and read by Tim Pigott-Smith

2007   ‘Top 10 Short Stories’, the Guardian

2007   Short story collection, Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction, Hamish Hamilton/Penguin UK 

2006   Novel, The Wave Theory of Angels, Hamish Hamilton/Penguin UK

2005   Story ‘Radiant Heat’, Prospect Magazine

1996   Novel, The Changeling, Macmillan UK




all the beloved ghosts:


A ‘Best Book of 2017’, the Guardian


A Finalist for The 2017 Governor General’s Award for Fiction, Canada's longstanding national award for literary fiction 


A ‘Book of the Summer’ for the Huffington Post and THE WEEK


“Alison MacLeod, the author of the Man Booker-listed novel Unexploded, seamlessly knits together essayistic and imaginative modes of writing in her second short-story collection All the Beloved Ghosts (Bloomsbury). Historical figures such as Sylvia Plath, Princess Diana, Anton Chekhov and Angelica Garnett rub shoulders with fictional characters and the author herself in a series of emotionally powerful meditations… MacLeod’s formal sophistication and her impeccably elegant, richly textured prose make this another collection to savour.”   Edmund Gordon, THE SUNDAY TIMES


‘MacLeod is dazzlingly good at evoking a whole life through a single snapshot and at bending and stretching her prose as she moves between an impressive range of narrative personae.’  Lara Feigel, THE GUARDIAN


‘[A] joy to read… exceptionally accomplished’  Claire Looby, THE IRISH TIMES


“If you read only one book of short stories this year, it should be this one.”  Christena Appleyard, DAILY MAIL


An “accomplished feast…The tone is elegiac, darkly humorous and deeply sensual… MacLeod is a gently playful but fearless writer…”  Clarissa Hurley, ATLANTIC BOOKS TODAY (Canada)


“All The Beloved Ghosts is an evocative, masterfully written collection of 12 stories that invokes and creatively re-imagines familial and historical “ghosts”… Her writing is intricately wrought and moves with incredible subtlety… No word is misplaced: this is an author in full control of her craft.”   Toh Wen Li, THE STRAITS TIMES (Singapore)


‘Through nuanced and often lyrical prose, MacLeod imbues cultural figures and events with color and emotional authenticity... [A]n astute and compassionate observer of human nature.’  Yoona Lee, LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS


“All the Beloved Ghosts is a far-reaching and graceful suite of short fiction… Each piece touches the heart of what it means to be alive.”  Cameron Woodhead, THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD


“We’ll be surprised if there is a better collection of short stories published … this year”  BOOKMUNCH (UK)


“MacLeod blends memoir and fiction to stunning effect in her short story collection, blurring the lines between life and death as she explores the nature of memory... The collection’s haunting prose is by turns heartbreaking and uplifting, transforming the stories’ heavy themes into something entirely unique.” PASTE MAGAZINE (USA)



Longlisted for the 2013 Man-Booker Prize for Fiction

A 'Book of the Year' for the Observer

Adapted for BBC Radio 4

'Unexploded is like a piece of finely wrought ironwork, uncommonly delicate but at the same time astonishingly strong and tensile; it's a novel of staggering elegance and beauty.' THE INDEPENDENT

'Full of simmering tension, resentment and unexpressed passion... A bold, cleverly-told story from a writer who knows exactly what she's doing.' THE OBSERVER

'An exploration of the xenophobia and neurosis unleashed in times of national crisis ...MacLeod remains one of the most astute... writing today.' THE GUARDIAN

'The plot is fast-paced and engaging, the characters are compelling, and the descriptions of wartime Brighton are pin-sharp... The novel's denouement is as heart-rending as it is unexpected.' THE FINANCIAL TIMES

Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction:

‘Alison MacLeod’s collection of stories is a baker’s dozen of excellence book-ended by brilliance.’  TIME OUT

'MacLeod's fictions are modern indeed. They are fragmentary evocations of desire and its mysteries, passing glimpses into minds and hearts… [Her] characters are strong, and they are worth listening to'   THE GUARDIAN

‘MacLeod's strike rate is uniformly high. The opening story, “so that the land was darkened”, can stand for her strengths. Quietly, obliquely, MacLeod conveys more about the randomness of urban living and the ruptures caused by terrorism than most issue-centered stories, or indeed novels, ever could.’  THE MONTREAL GAZETTE

The Wave Theory of Angels: 

'…a daring investigation of medieval philosophy, modern-day physics, and the relation of both to faith and desire...  [MacLeod] has an engaged delight in the stuff of life…’   TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

‘The Wave Theory of Angels is a bold and beautiful dismantling of the linearity and fixedness of time and space… [Its characters] live and breathe and, most important, desire, in rich period detail. … [MacLeod] has achieved an enchanting, playful and, at times, dark probing of the limits of our knowledge.  THE GLOBE AND MAIL (Canada's leading broadsheet)

The Changeling:

‘a magnificent debut novel…’  The Independent (2006)


‘Alison MacLeod has written a stunning novel. She has wrought characters who charm, beguile and refuse well-trodden paths. In her recreation of 18th-century Cork, Anne Bonny is the changeling, a rare babe who refuses swaddling. Her restless spirit remains untethered and her gender indeterminate… There is no romance in this vision of pirating. Rackham’s crew, bent on reaping the rewards of a ship’s hold — whether gold or African slaves — cut out tongues, nail a captain’s innards to the main mast and force a cabin boy to eat cockroaches. MacLeod has such a delicate eye for detail that these other-worldly scenes are brought shimmeringly to life… This is a wonderful tale, beautifully written and yet steeped in the myth that it deservedly explodes.’  NEW STATESMAN


 ‘The womanly wisdom, the old wives’ tales and the author’s sublimely sensual narrative ensure the book oozes with oestrogen. But it also honks of history, with an authenticity of language and geography that captures completely the unfolding landscape of the new world. Its breadth is vast, its structure flawless. This is a voyage through a unique imagination.’  TIME OUT (London)

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