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'David and I, because we had so many children, always had a rule that one of us had to be not working on their own project if the other was. So we took things in turns'

Polly Samson’s best-selling new novel is set among the bohemian writers and artists who flocked to Hydra in the 1960s. She tells Julia Molony about surviving life in lockdown with her husband David Gilmour, of Pink Floyd, and their family

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Bestselling writer Polly Samson

Bestselling writer Polly Samson

Bestselling writer Polly Samson

Wrecked marriages and abandoned children. Emotional lives laid waste by alcoholism and infidelity, poisoned by rancour and rage. Such is the cost of the artistic life as portrayed by Polly Samson in her new novel A Theatre for Dreamers.

Set on the Greek island of Hydra - which has become known as Leonard Cohen's island - in 1960, the novel is populated by the real-life bohemian set who flocked to it in search of beauty, sensuality, freedom and inspiration. The group includes Cohen himself and the iconic Australian literary couple Charmian Clift and George Johnston, part of a motley crew of writers, artists, musicians and poets. There among the bougainvillea, crystal waters and whitewashed stone, they worked and lived lives rich in both pleasure and pain, laying the seeds for the fame and catastrophe that would follow.

Samson's real life makes, at first glance, a direct counterpoint to this narrative. She's currently locked down, she explains over Zoom from her home in Sussex, "with four generations of my family, from baby up to 88-year-old," which is, she says "quite full-on".