It’s been a hectic few weeks what with the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Book Festival and my daughter’s 18th birthday celebrations! Rather later than planned, here is a quick round up of the various events I went to at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year.
It wasn’t always as sunny as that picture at the top suggests. There were quite a few days of torrential rain, including when I was at an evening event which had to finish a few minutes early. The power to the site had to be turned off for a short time due to the threat of lightning strikes! That was an event with Kate Atkinson who was talking about the return of her much loved character Jackson Brodie in Big Sky. I listened to the story as an audiobook, narrated by Jason Isaacs (who plays Jackson onscreen) during our summer holiday roadtrip and it was excellent. It was great to hear her talk about why she revisited the character after quite some time.
I attended a fascinating event with Sara Sheridan and Sian Reynolds. I was pleased to bump into and have a chat with Sara Sheridan before the event. Her book re-imagines Scotland as a place where woman are commemorated so some familiar landmarks or street names have new names. Sian Reynolds is the editor of the New Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women which has recently been updated. Both these women were fascinating to listen to and passionate about making sure women are commemorated and celebrated as they deserve.
I made a quick dash from the Spark Theatre in George Street to the New York Times Main Theatre in Charlotte Square where I listened to another fascinating session with historical novelist Alison Weir. This was quite an unusual event in that she gave a presentation about Anna Kleve, the subject of her latest in her epic series of Henry VIII’s wives.
On Tuesday 13th I had a busy day meeting up with various bloggers and publicists and attending four events. The first was with Joanne Harris who was talking about her latest book The Strawberry Thief (which is brilliant by the way). In common with Kate Atkinson’s Big Sky, this book marks a return to familiar characters who are now a little older. She explained that when she wrote Chocolat she was a mother with a daughter a similar age to Vianne’s daughter Anouk. Now, like Vianne, she has seen her daughter make her own way in the world and that was something she wanted to explore as part of her book.
Next was Neil Oliver who spoke so enthusiastically about his latest book The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places. He explained why he had chosen the some of the places to include and what their significance to British history. He was so passionate about this that I’m sure many people left the tent with a renewed interest in history and archaeology.
My final event on Tuesday was the poignant story of the Iolaire Disaster. This was a disaster which took place 100 years ago when the ship the Iolaire returning to the Hebridean Island of Lewis, struck rocks and sank just outside the harbour at Stornoway. This resulted in the deaths of at least 205 young men who had survived the First World War and were returning home. It is a tragedy which affected the island deeply for many years and was just not spoken about. Malcolm Macdonald and Donald John MacLeod’s painstaking research took decades to complete and resulted in the book The Darkest Dawn. This was an emotionally charged event with a poignant slideshow of photos of the lost and the survivors, beautifully sung elegies and it was very moving to hear accounts of the tragedy in Gaelic.
I wasn’t back at the book festival until the following Thursday. My first event that day was to see Shaun Bythell, owner of Scotland’s biggest second hand bookshop in Wigtown, chat with Sir Tim Waterstone founder of the Waterstones book chain. This was so interesting as the businesses are so very different. It was a very entertaining event with lots of laughter in the tent! I was particularly interested to hear Sir Tim’s aspirations when he opened his first shop – and how he left the first day’s takings on the train on the way home! I have read Shaun Bythell’s first book which is an eye-opening, honest and very funny account of running a second hand bookshop and intend to get myself a copy of his latest Confessions of a Bookseller. If you haven’t visited his shop in Wigtown, you really must if you are ever down that way. It’s a real treasure trove.
My last event was one I went to on a whim and I so enjoyed it! I heard Tracy Chevalier talking about her forthcoming book A Single Thread. This tells the story of a woman who is considered one of the ‘surplus women’ following the death of so many men during WW1. She becomes involved with women sewing kneelers at Winchester Cathedral and I found it so interesting to hear about the real life people this was based on. Tracy Chevalier spoke very enthusiastically about her research and how long it takes her. I have a copy of the book which I will be reading in the next couple of weeks. Having heard her interesting thoughts, I’m looking forward to it even more.
One of the things I love about the book festival is meeting up with bloggers, publicists, publishers authors and other book loving people. One day, I might be looking at the right place in the camera!
So that was my Edinburgh Book Festival adventure this year. Did you go to any of the same events I attended? Who did you go to see and what did you enjoy the most? I’d like to say a huge thank you to all those in the Press Tent for allowing me to have a press pass again this year and for all the work they do making things runs smoothly. Here’s to next year!