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17-19 November 2023

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November 2022: Currently Reading

By - 30 November 2022 - 16:44pm

Have you read any of the books we've read?

Usually at this time of year, we’d be saying a big ‘thank you’ to everyone who supported the Autumn Edition, and we may even share a sneak preview of what’s in store for the Summer Edition, but this year is different... It’s November, yes, and the Autumn Edition is over, but we still have two events to go before Christmas.

Tonight, we have a very special event for Derby County fans as we will be joined by Ryan Hills (plus very special guests Graham Richards and Colin Gibson) who will be in conversation with Kerry Ganly, former sports journalist and now account manager at Penguin PR. Tickets will be available on the door, so if you’re yet to make your mind up, there’s still time!

Our last event of the year will see us return to QUAD on Wednesday 21 December, where we will be joined by the Whitehall Editor for the Financial Times, Sebastian Payne. Sebastian will be in conversation with a Festival favourite, Navtej Johal, discussing The Fall of Boris Johnson: The Full Story. Tickets are available via the website, but don’t leave it too late to book.

Without further ado, here are the books we’ve been reading during November. Do you feature on your TBR list? We’d love to hear from you on – get in touch via our socials!

Liz Fothergill, Derby Book Festival Chair: The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn

I am really enjoying Joanna Quinn’s ambitious debut novel.

Sian, Festival Director: All the Broken Places by John Boyne

All the Broken Places by John Boyne is the long-awaited sequel to his bestseller, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. John is one of my favourite authors and this is written as a novel for adults dealing with some disturbing violence.

It tells the story of Gretel, sister of ‘The Boy’. Now aged 91, she looks back over the 80 years since the second world war and the impact of her family’s part in the Holocaust and the secrets she has spent her life protecting.

Now living in London in a mansion block, much of her life has been spent in luxury. When a couple moves into the flat below her, the appearance of their nine-year-old son brings back memories she would rather forget. She is forced to face a choice between her own safety and his, which takes her back to a similar crossroads she encountered long ago.

Gini, Festival Manager: Femina by Janina Ramirez

Having been absolutely blown away by the force of nature that is Janina Ramirez at the recent book Festival event, I bought the book! Janina makes history incredibly accessible, and the book does not disappoint. I started at the beginning but, with a personal interest in all things embroidery related, I looked in the index for references and had a quick dip into Chapter 4, Artists and Patrons, and was excited to learn more about the role women played in the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry (which is actually embroidery) and other women’s stories given voice through this art form... a must read, even if not all in one sitting!

Sue Wall, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: They by Sarfraz Manzoor

My book this month is They: What Muslims and Non-Muslims Get Wrong About Each Other. Sarfraz Manzoor has direct personal experience of the two communities, Muslim and Non-Muslim and this book sets out to help him understand why so many Muslims live in segregated communities “Is it through choice or is it the consequence of circumstances outside their control”. He is also trying to find out what can be done to achieve more integration. The book is very readable and is a great combination of research and wide knowledge of the various communities in Britain, threaded through with stories of individuals caught up on both sides of the divide, intimately describing the personal impact this has on them. A very enlightening read.

Keith McLay, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: Len Deighton’s oeuvre

During November, I have been rolling back the years and working through Len Deighton’s oeuvre. Reissued in the Penguin Modern Classics series in 2021, I began with his first novel, The IPCRESS File and then moved on to the Game, Set and Match trilogy (Berlin Game, Mexico Set, and London Match). Generally hailed, along with John le Carré, as having redefined the spy novel, I’ve found that I can only agree, and they now rightly form part of a classic series.

Fiona Apthorpe, Derby Book Festival Trustee: The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller

Miller considered this book to be his greatest literary achievement. It is a philosophical treatise on his total passion for Greece and the Greek people. “The light of Greece opened my eyes, penetrated my pores, extended to my whole being”. Not what I was expecting from the author of Tropic of Cancer, but a good read nonetheless!

Narinder Sharma, Derby Book Festival Trustee: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Keith Donald, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

I don’t know why, but always I have a reluctance to read books to which adjectives such as “outstanding”, “brilliant” and “best book of the [ ]”. So, it has taken me a few years to read this book. It lived up to all the positive publicity. It is an outstanding (sorry about that) novel, full of compassion, empathy, humanity, and imagination. I was gripped from the first page.

It tells the story of William’s and Agnes’s son, Hamnet Shakespeare, and his death at a young age from the bubonic plague. Set in Stratford and London and it tells the story of the two families, those of Agnes and William, and their lives in Stratford. The novel gives details of the anguish both parents suffer as a result of the death of their son, and the differing ways in which the parents adopt coping skills. Throughout the novel, I was expecting to read about the appearance of Anne; who is Agnes? However, this aspect of the novel is explained in “The Author’s Note” at the end of the book; I don’t think that the reading experience would be affected adversely if the reader were to read the afterword before reading the first page of the novel, and I think that it would have been very helpful for me to have done so. Don’t be like me; don’t delay your reading of this engrossing novel.

Felicity, Festival Administrator: Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson

There’s something about dark wintry nights that makes me want to read thriller books? I can’t explain it, but around this time of year (every year) I crave thrillers. I opted for Peter Swanson’s Before She Knew Him because some years ago, before I read thrillers, I read and adored The Kind Worth Killing. The twists and turns were so unexpected and utterly thrilling. After learning that Peter is releasing the sequel (The Kind Worth Saving) next year, I picked up another of his other books. I’ve only just started reading it but am already intrigued...

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