Meet Lisa Allen-Agostini, author of the Women’s Prize 2022 longlisted novel The Bread the Devil Knead.

Author Nalo Hopkinson said the novel ‘strips you down to raw nerve to build you back up again. Allen-Agostini has an unswerving eye.’

This novel is heart-wrenching yet light ending in a message of hope, so what was the inspiration behind it? We grabbed a quick five minutes with each of the authors behind the longlisted books to ask that question and more…

Describe in three words how it feels to be longlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

I am blessed.

What inspired you to write The Bread the Devil Knead?

I began writing it in a workshop with the late Caribbean writer Wayne Brown and the lead character Allie just sprang out from the pen. My special interest has always been Caribbean women and our stories; the book deals with many aspects of GBV and CSA, a sad reality of many women’s lives.

Can you describe The Bread the Devil Knead in one sentence?

The Bread the Devil Knead is about a Trinidadian woman turning 40 while in an abusive relationship and having an affair with her boss; it’s written mostly in Trinidad Creole; it’s surprisingly funny and light; and it ends in a message of hope and deliverance.

The Bread the Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini

The Bread the Devil Knead

by Lisa Allen-Agostini

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Are there any locations that have a special connection for the book?

I spent years going to school and working in Port of Spain, Trinidad’s capital, where the book is mainly set. They say you should write what you know. I know Town. I’ve walked the streets described in The Bread the Devil Knead and I think that familiarity comes over in the deeply descriptive passages about the city.

What was the first thing you ever wrote?

I was journaling since I was small—maybe six or seven?—but my first poem was written when I was eight or nine. It was awful and included the words “the hills/ and shining golden rills.” Fortunately I can’t remember much else about it.

Why did you become a writer?

I’ve always written and from childhood I knew I wanted to write professionally. It’s not so much “why did I become a writer” as “how could I have not become a writer” because it’s in my blood and bones. I love telling stories and writing poetry, sharing my ideas with other people and helping them see the world in a different way. I believe this is a gift and I hope I’m using it well.