Sophie Ward, the former Vogue cover girl who’s probably most famous for being the first high-profile British actress to come out as a lesbian, has written a novel. The prospect of reading it does not make my heart sing, since the phrases model/actress and novelist provoke traumatic recollections of Naomi Campbell’s Swan. But this book can’t reach that level of atrociousness, because it was longlisted for the Booker prize alongside the likes of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light and Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road.
Still – no names – not all Booker choices are necessarily to my taste, so I pick up Ward’s Love and Other Thought Experiments warily. And then follows a very pleasant surprise. The book is terrific: moving and dazzlingly ambitious in scope, exploring Ward’s polymathic fascinations with metaphysics, artificial intelligence and space exploration, yet never deviating from the underlying themes of family and love. Critics, I find when I read the reviews, have compared Ward’s writing to Milan Kundera’s and Doris Lessing’s.