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Sunday 1 October 2023

Something I enjoyed as a child was to visit the houses of authors I'd read, or had heard of - the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier.

There was something rather wonderful about seeing where they sat and wrote, the views they enjoyed, the domesticity that surrounded them. It felt that I was gaining an insight into their creativity, their inspiration and it made them more real, and their achievement a little more attainable for me, too. It fuelled my ambition to be a writer.

So what would it be like, then, to own and live in a house that was once that of a famous, a successful author?

I've been pondering that possibility with the news of two houses which have been put on the market recently. Of course they are not places I would seriously choose to live in but the fact that they have been made available has caused me to wonder, to imagine.

The bestselling novelist John Le Carre's house on the clifftop in Cornwall and the author and environmentalist Roger Deakin's house in Suffolk have both come up for sale.

I've enjoyed dwelling on the pictures of the rooms, the gardens, the shelves of books - but I wonder what will happen to them. Will a zealous fan snap them up for the ultimate connection to their much-loved author? Will they be saved for posterity and opened for public viewings? Or will they be seen solely as bricks and mortar to be shaped and moulded to the current owners' preferences? 

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 24 September 2023

September has flown by, hasn't it, but we've got some exciting author events to take us through the autumn months, I hope you'll agree.

Tickets are now on sale at the Riverside Cinema for the visits by novelist Nicola Upson and tv presenter and farmer Adam Henson in November. Click here for details.

But don't delay if you're thinking of coming along to hear Victoria Hislop next month - tickets are selling fast. Her new book 'The Figurine' is released this week but your ticket to our event on Wednesday 18 October includes a copy of this fabulous novel, so it's great value!

Tomorrow it's our book group meeting, and it's the final time in the old format. If you haven't already been in touch but are thinking of coming along tomorrow or in the future, please can you reply to this email straightaway and I can let you know the arrangements going forward. Things aren't too different, but there are a few changes to mention. 

Now, have you seen the shortlist for the Booker Prize? It's here, if you missed it.

In our Booker Book Challenge, I reported last week that we considered this year's longlist one of the most interesting and accessible of recent years and were very much looking forward to hearing which six titles the judges would put forward to the next stage.

It's a shame then, though perhaps not too much of a surprise, that the two most popular books didn't make it and the only two books which weren't enjoyed by our readers, did. And what about the fact that there were more authors named Paul on the shortlist than women?!

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 17 September 2023

There are a few dates to mention this week... 

First of all, the early bird rate for the event with Victoria Hislop next month closes on Wednesday, so don't delay in getting your tickets if you want to take advantage of this special offer!

And as we're fast approaching the end of the month, I'd be grateful if you would let me know by Wednesday lunchtime if you're planning on coming along to this month's book group meeting where we're discussing 'The Half Life of Valery K'.

As you know, things will be changing slightly in how I run this going forward so if you're interested in coming along to the meeting on Monday 25 September, please reply to this email and I'll let you know the new arrangements!

Then on Thursday it's the big reveal regarding the Booker Prize shortlist - scroll down for details of the conclusions from our recent book group discussion of the longlist, and we'll see if we agree with the judges on (m)any of the titles.

Finally look out for news from the Riverside Cinema on Friday as we release tickets for two more author events, taking place in November.

I'm excited to announce that the novelist Nicola Upson will be visiting on 26 November to talk about her latest Josephine Tey mystery which this time draws on Alfred Hitchcock and his filming of Daphne du Maurier's 'Rebecca'. And just three days later on 29 November we'll be joined by farmer and Countryfile presenter Adam Henson as he shares his stories of 'Christmas on the Farm'. I'll be explaining more about both events next week, but I hope you'll be keen to get these dates in your diary!

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 3 September 2023

Nothing seems to go to plan these days, does it? Just as we turn the pages of our diaries and register that it's the start of a new term, a new academic year, a new season, we're told that many schools will have to stay shut because they are unsafe.

Whether we're a pupil, parent, teacher or merely a member of the community this is more shocking news in unsettling times. 

For many of us a good book provides us with a necessary and welcome escape from the daily reality. It also sometimes helps renew and equip us for dealing with the challenges we're confronting.

So how have we found reading the Booker Prize longlist of titles this summer? These books have been selected because they 'best reflect what is going on in the world and do it beautifully,' according to one of the judges, Esi Edugyan.

We're meeting tomorrow evening to debate whether the books we've read meet that description and how we have responded to them.

In all our past meetings, there have been some surprise discoveries and it has always been an enlightening and entertaining discussion.

If you'd like to come along to listen in, please let me know by replying before noon tomorrow. If you can't make it, I'll endeavour to provide a short report in next week's newsletter! 

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 27 August 2023

It's been rather shocking to learn about the loss, damage and theft of artefacts at the British Museum this week, revealed as having taken place over a period of years. And of course it's receiving international attention, not least by the media in Greece.

The campaign for restoring ancient, important and valuable exhibits to their place of origin may certainly gain momentum. The argument that these items were in a safer, more secure location in Britain no longer rings true. 

We will be able to explore the situation in detail in a few weeks' time as Victoria Hislop's wonderful new novel takes the provenance and ownership of ancient Greek relics as the core of its story.

Called 'The Figurine' it boasts the usual powerful storytelling, characterisation and scene-setting of Victoria's other novels and so much more!

Should ancient treasures remain in the ground as originally intended? Should they be held by those who have discovered them? Should they be displayed for education and enjoyment? How should they be redistributed if in the wrong hands?

Click here for details of Victoria's visit to Woodbridge in a few weeks' time and book early to make the most of a very special 'early bird' ticket price!

But whether you're in Greece or Suffolk this bank holiday, I hope you'll find time to read. It's our Booker Challenge in a few days' time and I'm receiving encouraging reports from our team on their allocated titles from this year's Longlist. We're meeting on Monday 4 September at 7.30pm and if you would like to come along to listen to the discussion, please let me know. 

Thank you for reading.