Sally Bayley in conversation with Eleonora Maio

Sally Bayley is an acclaimed author whose books explore the relationship between autobiography, biography, memoir, and literary fiction. She’s the author of the auto/biographical trilogy which includes the volumes Girl with Dove (2018), No Boys Play Here (2021) and The Green Lady (2023): this tripartite coming-of-age narrative challenges traditional demarcations between literary categories to cast its own, unconventional form. Situated along the shifting relationship between fiction and non-fiction, the first two volumes are based on a story that builds momentum from a child’s imaginative relationship between literary characters and artistic forms as she searches for ways of seeing around difficulties. The third volume pushes this experimentation even further, connecting personal and cultural memory, archival sources and ‘imaginary biographies’, in a composite narrative that shifts across epochs and is framed by imaginative and real contexts.

The discussion will focus on the third volume of the trilogy, highlighting how, in Bayley’s works, lived experiences become material for her creative processes, producing a hybrid narrative that simultaneously reads as an autobiographical, biographical and/ or fictional work. Furthermore, focusing on the concept of relationality that sees auto/biographical narrative not as a solitary but as a relational story, the discussion will underscore the relationship between the individual life and wider webs of familial, social and historical structures, testified by a shifting narrative voice that alternates between subjective and collective consciousness.

Sally Bayley is a prize-winning author. She is a fiction and non-fiction writer who lives on a narrowboat on the River Thames in Oxford. Sally was the first child to go to University from West Sussex County Council care services and she is a Lecturer in English at Hertford College. She also teaches academic writing, literature, film and creative writing for the Sarah Lawrence Visiting Programme at Wadham College. From 2018-2020 she was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow and in 2021 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Eleonora Maio is pursuing her doctoral studies in the Humanities Department at the University of Palermo, Italy. She currently is a Visiting Doctoral Researcher at the Faculty of English Language and Literature, University of Oxford, working on her dissertation about Sally Bayley’s experimental auto/biographical trilogy.