Shalimar by Davina Quinlivan

‘Davina Quinlivan’s work maps, with grace and rigour, the rich, strange ground that lies between memoir, cultural history and nature writing.’ Robert Macfarlane

‘Davina Quinlivan is a writer of rare gentleness and insight: in Shalimar she winds us into the skein of her extended diasporic family, expressing the complexity of identity today. Deftly she weaves back and forth in time as she braids these memories, in a sustained, observant, poetic act of attention — and love. ‘ Marina Warner, author of Inventory of a Life Mislaid, Once Upon a Time: a Short History of Fairy Tale and The Lost Father 

Shalimar is dreamlike and full of sensation – Quinlivan constellates memory, place and belonging with such rarely-seen subtlety. This is a book that will weave its way into your thoughts and stay with you. Jessica J. Lee, author of Two Trees Make a Forest

‘A haunted archive, a casket full of memories, myths and dreams. A strange and startling cargo of ancestors brought vividly to life by a magician.’  Jeff Young, author of Costa  Prize-shortlisted Ghost Town

‘Evocative and heartfelt.’ Helena Lee, Harper’s Bazaar and editor-founder of East Side Voices

‘Like the rest of us, Quinlivan’s life is an outflowing of the influences of her family history. Unlike most of us, she is able to express this profound truth in achingly beautiful prose.’ Psychogeographic Review

‘Moving, lyrical, personal and immensely readable.’ International Times


How do the ghosts and myths of our family’s past travel into the present? How do these fragments take root, shaping who we are and how we navigate our way in the world?

In her mid-twenties, after the death of her father, Davina Quinlivan leaves her family home in Hayes, west London, to begin a transitory life. She feels restless, never quite at home in the countryside, stuck between ‘Deep England’ and the technicolour memories and mythology of her family’s migration story.

Beginning in colonial India and Burma, where the women in her family descend from the indigenous tribes and diasporas of Portuguese Kerala and the Shan Hills of Myanmar, the extraordinary history of Quinlivan’s Anglo-Asian family reaches England in the 1950s, where the mountains and gardens of Mogok and Darjeeling blend with the streets of Southall and Ealing. Yet the stories of her ancestors endure, smuggled through time and place in the sweet flavours of her auntie’s cooking, in the tales her father tells before he dies.

Quinlivan is the inheritor, and in Shalimar she has conjured a new place, between continents, between worlds. This lyrical story of migration, of returning home and making a home, is an assured debut by an exceptional new voice.



Shalimar is now also available as an audiobook, read by the author herself, and co-published with Spiracle Audiobooks as a Spiracle edition. Read more and buy a copy here.

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here.


In stock


Davina Quinlivan is a lecturer in the Department of English and Creative Writing at the University of Exeter. For several years she has run ‘F: For Flanerie’ , a series of writing and film seminars at The Freud Museum, and alongside Marina Warner and Robert Macfarlane is part of the founding teaching ensemble at The New School of the Anthropocene. Her writing has appeared widely; she is now working on a follow-up to Shalimar entitled Waterlines, and a novel set between Cornwall and the Black Sea.

Additional information

Weight400 g
Dimensions222 × 10 × 156 mm


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