There can’t be many more beautiful places to have a literary festival than Kew Gardens on a bright Autumn weekend. This was the first Write on Kew festival and if my experience is anything to go by I’m sure it won’t be the last. It ran over 4 days with a line up including an esteemed and diverse collection of authors. Maragret Attwood, Judith Kerr, Richard E Grant, AS Byatt and Wendy Cope to name but a few.
The tickets were a little pricey at £10+ per event but as this included entrance into the gardens. it was probably acceptable.
The event I attended was called ‘A Novel Literary Lunch’ . It was hosted by Mel Giedroyc. She was joined by John Mullan, Professor of English at UCL and author of How Novels Work, and novelist and journalist Rachel Johnson who between them discussed ‘Which literary works provide the perfect sustenance for the mind?’ Each of them recommended the books they considered to be a perfect blend of nourishment, spice and guilty pleasure.
With the ‘Great British Bake Off’ phenomenon at its peak during the time of the festival, Mel got the event got off to a wholly appropriate start by entering the tent bearing baked goods. She proceeded to share her home made cakes with the audience. I can proudly say that I have eaten one of Mel Giedroyc’s Curly Wurly brownies – and very good it was too.
The event took the form of a three course meal with Mel, John and Sue each presenting 3 books. Something light and tempting for a starter, something a bit meatier for the main and finishing up with a desert or guilty book pleasure.
Starters included a book chosen by Mel called ‘The Novel Cure‘ which I’m now desperate to get my hands on. Its written by Ella Berthoud & Susan Elderkin who have the wonderful title of ‘bibliotherapists’ . Bibliotherapists prescribe novels to cure ailments. Whatever your symptom, physical or emotional they have the novel to treat you.
“our prescriptions are simple: a novel (or two), to be read at regular intervals. Some treatments will lead to a complete cure. Others will simply offer solace, showing you that you are not alone. All will offer the temporary relief of your symptoms due to the power of literature to distract and transport”
Surely everyone needs this book in their life
Another book was Rachel Johnson’s starter, ‘Still Missing’ by Beth Gutchan. This sounds fantastic, and is published by Persephone which makes it even more fantastic. Rachel described this as one of only two books her non reading son had read. He and the rest of the family were completely captivated by it during one rainy Easter holiday.
Vanity Fair by William Thackeray was deemed to be a great main course ” timeless, about ambition power and sex” said Rachel. For Johns main course he chose ‘Clarissa’ by Samuel Richardson “a total absorption experience’ but also the longest book in the English language so I think I’m unlikely to try it any time soon.
It was a great afternoon with lots of debate and just enough hilarity to stop it being stuffy. I got some new book recommendations one or two of which will be making an appearance on my 2015 Christmas list.