MEET THE AUTHOR                          

Bem Le Hunte was born in 1964 in Calcutta, the fourth child of an Indian mother and English father. Soon after she was born, the family moved to a remote little village in Orissa, in India's tribal belt, where Bem’s grandfather had some mines. ‘Life in India was idyllic,’ Bem says. ‘We were the spoilt children of a wealthy family. In India we were waited on hand and foot, and never thought that life would be any different.’  One day, though, ‘I woke up and my whole family were shifting to London. Everyone was shifting, that is, except me. I stayed behind for quite some time with my grandmother, because apparently I would only get in the way of any attempts to settle back into my father's homeland.’

Upon her arrival in London, Bem had to rediscover her family as well as a new country. ‘Settling down in England was difficult at first,’ she says. ‘We must have had strong Indian accents, and England was very racist at the time. We were the “Pakis”, “the sparrow leg sisters”, the children whose experiences didn't quite match up to the suburban, proud white, small-minded lifestyle of that era.’ Bem’s family were unusual, too, in that they often visited their relatives in India: ‘In those days, to say that you were going overseas was like saying that you were going to the moon. And we were always going overseas. Every year my grandparents paid for our tickets and we'd go back home to India for a hot monsoon in Calcutta. Nine hours on a plane and we'd be back to our livese as indulged little lords and ladies.

Educated at Godolphin & Latymer School in Hammersmith --- ‘famous for its sexy uniform and girls of good character,’ says Bem --- she studied for her finals in four months instead of two years. Still only sixteen, and too young to attend University, Bem spent a year studying journalism before going on to study Social Anthropology at Cambridge University. Bem chose to study there because ‘Cambridge had always been a dream for me, ever since I visited in the late sixties with my parents and saw how much fun the students were having. I loved it there. My first year I almost failed, because I was too busy partying, falling in love and enjoying my freedom. One of my tutors was staggered when I finally handed in my first essay, well into the final semester.’

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Anthropology and a Master of Arts, Bem lived in both Japan and Chicago before leaving America to live in Delhi, where she worked on short films for the U.N. during the International Decade of Women's Development.

Following her time in Delhi, Bem ‘accidentally fell into advertising and worked as a copywriter. If I told you this whole story, you'd have to agree with me – this was truly an accident. Nonetheless, it allowed me to fine-tune my writing skills and get paid well for doing it.’

In 1989 Bem left England on a voyage around the world. She landed in Australia, and despite the warning a friend had given her – “Australia's a beautiful country,” she was told, “but the men are dreadful, you’ll be so lonely Bem.” --- she says: ‘Australia was my lucky country. I moved in with my husband within two weeks of landing and we now have two gorgeous boys, Taliesin and Rishi. Within a few weeks of arriving, [I was also] lecturing full time in the Humanities Department of a Sydney University.’

It was the support of her husband, Jan, which led Bem to write her first novel, The Seduction of Silence: ‘My husband noticed that I was unable to walk into bookshops. He knew what the thing about bookshops was all about, and he was the one who always encouraged me to write the book that I never dared speak about. The opportunity to write eventually came when I fell pregnant with my second child. At this point we sold our house, sacked our clients and went to spend some time in the foothills of the Himalayas so that I could start work on The Seduction of Silence. [The] book is dedicated to my husband, Jan. Without him I'd still be giving bookshops a wide berth.’