How Novelist Louisa Hall Got From the Squash Court to 'The Carriage House'

Oct 20, 2014

Credit Louisa Hall

This month’s guest on "The Write Up" is novelist and poet Louisa Hall.

Louisa Hall’s life reads like a novel all its own – after graduating Harvard, she became a professional squash player, ranked second overall in the US. But near the height of her career, Hall abandoned the sport and headed to Texas to study literature at the University of Texas, write poetry, and begin working on her first novel.

Hall’s beautiful debut novel, "The Carriage House," follows William Adair and his three talented daughters in a moment of transition and tension. The parade of characters’ intertwining stories results in a graceful, warm exploration of family, identity, and memory. Philipp Meyer praised the novel as, “Part Jane Austen, part John Cheever, this tale marks the debut of a stunning new writer.”

Hall based the structure of "The Carriage House" on Jane Austen’s "Persuasion," and says Austen’s novel mentored her through the creation of her own work. But, despite her best efforts, its theme sneaks into her writing.  

She also discusses everything from the finest Russian novel to enjoy at an international squash tournament to the sexy allure of science fiction to the enticement of voice in crafting addictive prose.

Hall shares moments from her journey from professional squash champion to successful writer, describing the unlikely transitions, difficult challenges, and the elusive moment when she first saw herself as an author.

Hall also treats us to a sneak peek into the world of her novel-in-progress, centering on the people involved in the quest to develop artificial intelligence.

As always on “The Write Up,” there is a brief book review. In lieu of professional book reviewers, host Owen Egerton called up his friends and family. This month his teenage nephews review “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut and “Stiff” by Mary Roach. If their high school English teacher tunes in, the boys might get extra credit.