This is my second year of attending the Guildford Book Festival Readers Day. I wish I could have attended many more events there, however I have a full time job and although Guildford is not far in the car (or by train) it would work out expensive. So in the end I decided I would stick to the Readers Day which they hold as I think you get pretty good value for money all in! Last year when I went I spent a lot of time taking notes from all the discussions from the authors – this year as I did for an early event I attended I decided to sit there and just make some small notes and absorb the whole thing. I am sure I missed something but I can say I did thoroughly enjoy it and it reminded me how much I miss ‘learning’.
I think that is why I read so much and then review the books, it keeps the old grey matter turning over. The job fills in the rest of that but that is mainly dealing with numbers – I hope I have achieved a happy balance.
I digress you really want to know who I saw don’t you? Ok here is the list
Charlotte Mendelson – Never read any of her novels, Almost English which is the book she touched upon is now on my wish list and she was very interesting to listen to. She definitely recommended reading The Luminaries the recent Booker winner (handy as that has arrived to my shelf – it is so huge that it might need a shelf of its own) as well as Life after Life – Kate Atkinson (ooo I have read that!) and anything by Elizabeth Taylor especially The Wedding Group. I read one of Taylor’s last year so hope to expand my reading of this author. She also said don’t be put off by reading War and Peace – break it down and crack on with reading it.
Jessica Ruston – Another author who I have never read any of her books and I also took the risk of being in her breakout session to talk about her latest novel The Lies You Told Me. A book that has gone on my list but I have just bought her first novel. A woman as old as me who has a great way with words and actually made the observation that as the author 3/4 of the story is with them the other 1/4 that’s with the reader. And how right she is. Which is why we all get different things from books and see what others cannot see and vice versa.
Sophie Hardach – yes another author whose books I have not read. And who surprised everyone by saying that her desert island book would be Bleak House. I think she surprised herself too! I found her quite nervous and she did rather speak as she had rehearsed it and from a script, not quite as natural as the others.
Nigel Farndale – yes you guessed it – I have not read The Blasphemer. But I have read some of his articles in The Telegraph but I don’t think that counts does it? He talked about what he likes to read o holiday and most recently read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and enjoyed it. It is good to know that authors/journalists read the hype books as much as us authors.
Laurie Graham – well I started her book At Sea whilst on the way to Guildford. I had to stop it was making me ill. Not the book, the reading while travelling bit. But I did want to read more. I did and the review will follow on this blog at some point in the future. However, I thought she was quite a private lady and she did not seem to be that forthcoming about wanting to sign the book I had, which did put me off a bit. She did comment that she was glad to see that cover around. Her comfort books which is what she spoke about were a varied choice and the one that stuck in my mind was Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome, this got a good recognition from the audience and one I must perhaps look into at some point.
Judith Kinghorn – Yes an author I have read. In fact I have read all of her novels and I was very excited to be able to press the flesh and get my copy of The Memory of Lost Senses signed personally. It was very interesting to hear about how the book came to fruition – the first she wrote the second that she published. I was also pleased to be acknowledged as a twitter
stalker follower and it was just nice to hear her talk and all the inspiration that she has had for her novels and how her third is being plotted as well. I cannot wait to read it.
Judith also mentioned about the authors/characters that she would most like to invite to dinner , sparked an idea in my mind. She wanted to invite all these wonderful dead women authors to ‘Deceased Literary Women Inaugural Dinner’; The likes of Virginia Woolf, Jean Rhys, Rosamund Lehman, Sylvia Plath to name a few and see how well they interacted with each other and also who would try and come out on top literary wise. Judith had obviously given this a lot of thought and I wonder whether there could be a book club/reading group potential in the idea of Deceased Literary Women Dinner or DLWD for short?
Mark Mills – hey yes I have read his books as well and have his latest to read, need to get round to that. Mark Mills was lucky enough to be picked for a Richard and Judy choice and that is where I have discovered him from. So very different books and it sounds like his latest The Long Shadow is different again. I also learnt that he wrote screenplays and was involved in such areas of film as was Jessica Ruston. Who would Mark liked to have asked to dinner – well probably all of Judith’s choices but also Boris Pasternak of Doctor Zhivago fame. I had no idea that that was his only major and notable work and that it had in the main been written long before it was published but had to be kept a secret due to the volatile state of Russia.
Mike Gayle – Yep him too! I have read a few of Mike Gayle’s novels when I was in my early twenties. They were in some ways transition books between the teenage and the adult for me. But I read them at a time when I was devouring such books as those by Jane Green, Adele Parks, Lisa Jewell. Interestingly I have slowly started gong back to these authors now. I wonder why? He was a wonderfully funny man and shared the moment when he was hooked on reading – Tess of the D’urbervilles did for him. Although like everyone he wishes he could have written Harry Potter, he wishes perhaps something along the lines of Just William or should that have been Just Mike? And did you ever know that he was the agony uncle for Just Seventeen magazine – oh how that brought back happy memories, I remember reading that magazine! Oh how old I feel and as his new book Turning Forty which follows on from Turning Thirty I wonder whether I need to reread Turning Thirty (It was early twenties I read it) as I am approaching the Turning Forty mark. Lets just not think about it.
So there you go, that is who I saw, hopefully it gives a flavour of what I have picked up. It was all wonderfully held together by Guy from newbooks magazine who do their own readers day. I was a bit disappointed that there was not much choice of books to buy, I actually did not buy any! (I have since made up for that mind you) The goody bag was not a cloth one like last year – and the choice of books was rather limited, but that is me being really picky.
The venue, a new one for this years was excellent and it did not feel as crowded and there was no need to be taken all over the building for the breakout sessions. Although there was a bit of confusion to start with about where to go – maybe a couple of signs might have helped. The lunch was better than last year, more spread out and easier to get to, plus plenty of seconds. Although I have to confess not as good as the one at the newbooks readers day.
Everyone I spoke to was very friendly and there was a good mix of an audience, still female dominated but I think it always will be at these events. For £28 this was a day which gave you excellent value for money and you were with like-minded people. Obviously it costs more in the long run because then you have to go buy all the authors books and all the recommendations that are thrown around the room!
I hope it goes ahead next year and I will certainly being booking a place. It makes no difference whether you have read any of the authors or even heard of any I think it is a good way to expand your literary knowledge and shrink your bank balance!