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Derby Book Festival 2022

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February 2022: Currently Reading

By - 28 February 2022 - 17:41pm

Find out what the team have been reading this month

Wow, what a month February has been! It feels as though we’ve had all four seasons across Derbyshire this month. The unpredictable weather has made us want to curl up with a good book. What books have you read and enjoyed this month? The team has been reading a broad selection again, and we’re looking forward to sharing them with you.

Sian, Festival Director: Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

There has been such a buzz about this novel, it can’t be ignored! What a talent Caleb is. Not only a beautiful, sensitive young writer, but also a celebrated photographer. It is hard to believe it is a debut novel, although its subject matter, about two young Black British artists falling in and out of love, has an aching intensity that must surely come from painful, personal experience.

It references a lot of contemporary music, which sadly was lost on me, so I felt I missed out on a dimension which I’m sure enhances it for many readers. I understand there is an official Spotify playlist of the music (not in the ebook version I read) which inspired Caleb when writing the book.

Though a relatively short novel, it has great depth and is very thought provoking. Its exploration of what it is to be a young Black Londoner gave me challenging insight into both race and masculinity that made me feel ashamed to have never considered as a white woman. It deserves to have a wide readership and is a worthy winner of the Costa First Novel Prize.

Gini, Festival Manager: The Marmalade Diaries: The True Story of an Odd Couple by Ben Aitken

Having read Ben's three previous 'travel' books, I was intrigued to see what direction The Marmalade Diaries would take written during a time of lockdown when travel was somewhat restricted. The Marmalade Diaries is a heart-warming progression from his last book, The Gran Tour, where his observations of our 'elders' began.

The result is a moving, funny, charming journal about two unlikely housemates - Ben, 34, seeking a roof over his head with a low rent and 84-year-old, recently widowed Winnie, set in her ways and adjusting to a new life without her beloved husband. It's an exploration of grief, of what home means, memories and family, the lessons we can learn from intergenerational friendships, tolerance and, ultimately, it's about love.

A gentle, though-provoking book that will make you laugh and maybe cry just a little bit!


Sarah Ward, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: The Bad Sister by JA Corrigan

I'm currently reading The Bad Sister by JA Corrigan. It's an interesting psychological thriller about a group of sisters who grew up in a luxury riverside home. Secrets begin to be revealed at a party which have reverberations for the sisters' future relationships.


Fiona Apthorpe, Derby Book Festival Trustee: The Authority Gap by Ann Sieghart

I am currently reading The Authority Gap by Mary Ann Sieghart, a former Assistant Editor and columnist at The Times.

This is a well-researched, thoughtful and fascinating analysis about why women are still, even in this day and age, taken less seriously than men. It includes some interesting observations by luminaries such as Angela Merkel, Mary McAleese, Mary Beard, Helena Kennedy and Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Did you know that apparently men are four times more likely to read a book by a man than by a woman?! Women read both genders almost equally. Worth thinking about!


Keith McLay, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: Let’s Stick Together by Sophie Hénaff

The standout novel I read during February was Sophie Hénaff’s Let’s Stick Together. The sequel to The Awkward Squad, the reader picks up the adventures of Paris Police Commander Anne Capestan’s team of idiosyncratic detectives whose commonality is that for a variety of different reasons - personal, professional or a combination - they were cast asunder from their original squads.

Allocated cold cases or cases that the police chiefs want buried, Capestan’s officers and their methods are so outré that the novel has all the hallmarks of an opéra bouffe and is at turns uproariously funny. Still, the humour cannot mask the novel’s serious themes of police corruption and complex familial histories that were thought forgotten but continue down the generations.

Hénaff has produced an original take on the police procedural and one awaits the third in the series with anticipation.


Sue Wall, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: The Joyful Environmentalist: How to Practise without Preaching by Isabel Losada

This is a book to read, enjoy, learn from - and then buy extra copies to give to your friends! A guide to living in a more environmentally friendly way, reducing your impact on the planet, which brings fun, hope and humour to the otherwise depressing topic of climate change. Read and Go Green!


Felicity, Festival Administrator: The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

I read a sample of The Road Trip when I finished The Switch and instantly knew I was going to love the book and its characters (namely Addie and Dylan). There is something about the way O’Leary writes - the scenarios, characters, and imagery she uses create a world where I am instantly absorbed.

In The Road Trip we meet an interesting mix of characters who are unexpectedly forced to take a road trip. Dylan and Addie are exes (we don’t know exactly what happened, but something definitely happened), Marcus is Dylan’s obnoxious best friend, Deb is Addie’s sister and they both seem to have a different take on the situation. Rodney is there by chance; he needed a lift to the wedding they’ve all been invited to and has no idea what’s going on.

What I particularly like about The Road Trip is the way the past and present are interwoven, and so too are the characters.

Have you read any of the books featured in this instalment of Currently Reading? We’d love to hear from you via our social media channels!

We have some very exciting Festival news coming in March - watch this space for more information! Make sure you’re signed up to our newsletter and follow us on social media to be the first to know our latest news.

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