Jenny’s book follows the life of Thomas Machell, an early 19th century explorer. 

A novel coincidence - alumna published by alumnus

In a stroke of coincidence, an alumna has had her book published by an alumnus.

Jenny Balfour-Paul (PhD Arab and Islamic Studies 1992) recently celebrated the launch of Deeper than Indigo: tracing Thomas Machell, forgotten explorer, but the book found its way to the presses through unique circumstances. “A major publisher considered my completed manuscript ‘too unusual’ to publish,” Jenny says, “but Medina Publications took it on last year, just when a new editor, Richard Wood, an alumnus of Exeter’s English Department, joined their team.”

Richard (English 2003) was just as intrigued by the coincidence. “When I finished my English degree I couldn’t imagine that it would bring me back 12 years later, to publish the work of a fellow alumna,” he says. “When I first met Jenny we talked at great length about the university and the happy time I spent there studying; it’s true that the shared experiences of Exeter stay with you and we had a great time reminiscing, with Jenny telling me of all the new developments since I left.”

Jenny’s book follows the life of Thomas Machell, an early 19th century explorer. “From 2000 I researched the life of the forgotten Victorian explorer whose remarkable journals in the British Library I heard of thanks to the University’s librarian,” says Jenny. “For five years I travelled from China to Polynesia in Machell’s footsteps (often in my own too) and completed the story in 2010 aboard a container ship to India (a journey undertaken by Machell by Arabian sailing dhows in 1849).”

Both Jenny and Richard are happy to see the book published. “The book has already received many favourable reviews,” Jenny says. “This shows what can be achieved when two alumni put their heads together in the world of publishing.”

For more information on Jenny’s book and Thomas Machell’s fascinating story. See her interview with the Guardian.

Date: 24 July 2015

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