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3 Festivals for 2024


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July 2023: Currently Reading

By - 31 July 2023 - 16:16pm

We've read some great books this month, what have you been reading?

Summer is well underway, and we’re delighted to have more free time to catch up on reading. That being said, we’re still busy behind the scenes getting everything ready for our Autumn Edition, which is taking place from November 17-19th.

The full line-up will be announced in the coming weeks, so watch this space! We’re also working on our community projects (Early Years, Shared Reading, and more). Keep an eye on social media as that’s where we’ll be sharing updates. As ever, follow, like, and share if you can – we very much appreciate it.

For now, here’s everything we’ve read during July. Have you read any of the books mentioned?

Sian Hoyle, Festival Director: Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

I’ve not been a huge fan of Barbara Kingsolver’s books to date, but I had heard so many great reviews from friends that it was the holiday read I was really looking forward to. A modern retelling of David Copperfield sounded fascinating, and it really is a brilliant reworking with such clever links to the original story. It is a tale of the challenges of rural living in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and the intense pressures caused by the opioid crisis. It is about love and loss and breaks your heart ... and ultimately mends it! I’m definitely a covert to her writing now and it is a very deserved winner of this year’s Women’s Prize (even though it beat the wonderful Trespasses by Louise Kennedy).

Gini Smith, Festival Manager: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

Do not be fooled by the title or the book cover... This is a dark tale told through the eyes of a pretty, young, rich New Yorker who has tired of the superficial, vacuous party life and the people that populate it. Seeking to escape this world, and her own tragic childhood and the deaths of her neglectful parents, the protagonist embarks on a year of drug-induced escapism to sleep away her past and her present in the hope of waking up renewed and able to start again. Edgy, but with moments of humour.

Ian Pringle, Community Engagement Officer: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Picked up The Midnight Library by Matt Haig for the second time. Last time I abandoned it after only a chapter or two. Marking more headway this time.

Keith McLay, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: Tomorrow They Won’t Dare to Murder Us by Joseph Andras

The standout book I read in July was Joseph Andras, Tomorrow They Won’t Dare to Murder Us. Slim, barely a novella, Andras provides a fictionalised account of the case of Fernand Iveton, the only European executed by the French state during the Algerian Civil War. Iveton was a communist who supported the Algerian nationalist cause and had planted a bomb to detonate in a disused factory store cupboard when the factory was closed. Iveton was picked up by the police before the bomb exploded and over the following few days he was tortured (to give up his collaborators), tried quickly and sentenced to execution by the guillotine. The book’s prose is beautifully sparse and taught; it addresses themes of proportionality in sentencing and the power of public and political opinion in demanding a course of action and outcome that was widely (though largely silently) viewed as wholly disproportionate to the crime. Interestingly, the Justice Minister who, alongside the President, refused Iveton’s appeal was the subsequent two-term, 14 year President of France, Francois Mitterrand.

Sue Wall, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: The work of Elly Griffiths

This time, not a book, but an author! Chatting to a friend recently, I recommended Donna Leon to her - for her wonderful crime and police procedure novels set in Venice, and she recommended Elly Griffiths for the crime series set in Norfolk, with an archeological theme. So, over the last month I have read not one, not two, but three of her books, and have “escaped” from reality into this other world, the world of archeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson. I grew up in East Anglia, which gives the books an added attraction for me, and the combination of the plot, the storytelling, the characters and the archeological details made them very enjoyable (and clearly addictive, if I’ve read 3). And then I turned on Radio 4, to listen to A Good Read, and who should be on but Elly Griffiths! She sounds like a lovely person, too.

Fiona Apthorpe, Derby Book Festival Trustee: The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux

I am reading The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux, still one of the all-time great travel writers who could make a trip to Sainsbury’s sound exciting!

Narinder Sharma, Derby Book Festival Trustee: Sweet Sweet Revenge Ltd. by Jonas Jonasson

I am thoroughly enjoying this wistful, charming tale that explores quite serious issues in a tongue-in-cheek manner. It is also interesting that it is written in Swedish, and this is a translation and therefore we learn a little about Sweden and their society. Makes a change from the American/UK centric viewpoint we get normally in our popular culture.

It is a story of how a group of protagonists seek revenge against a cynical art dealer who has inflicted great wrongs against each of them. They do this by using the services of a service provider who has been specifically set up for this purpose. I am sure each reader will have fantasised such retribution against their own personal wrong doers. (I enjoyed the daydreaming!)

Once you put aside the impracticality of a such a commercial venture, it is a ride that takes you from Masai villages to Art houses to Advertising Agencies. I hope the Nazi gets a suitable chastisement that is proportionate to his crimes of racism, embezzlement, and lack of general appreciation of any art in the last 150 years. (Unforgivable)

Sam McKenna, Shared Reading Project Co-ordinator: The Corner Shop by Babita Sharma

I’m reading The Corner Shop by Babita Sharma, which is a social history of immigration from the 60’s through the eyes of a family striving to integrate and serve their community. I will be shopping for my holiday reading soon, Demon Copperhead is top of the list as I have loved the previous Barbara Kingsolver books I have read (The Lacuna and The Poisonwood Bible) look forward to seeing what the rest of the team are reading for some recommendations...

Felicity, Derby Book Festival Marketing Assistant: Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors and Consent by Annabel Lyon.

In July I finished two books, Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors and Consent by Annabel Lyon.

I’ll start with the latter, which I really enjoyed. It’s set in Vancouver, and having had a friend who lived there, I felt I could visualise some areas described. The book itself looked at the complex relationships between two sets of sisters. Saskia and Jenny are twins, and things are already complicated before Jenny has a devastating car accident. I won’t say any more than that, except that it was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021, and I found the ending slightly confusing. I have tried to find reviews online to see if anyone else has any kind of explanation, but I haven’t found anything yet, so if anyone has any thoughts, please let me know.

I also finished Cleopatra and Frankenstein, which I had seen rave reviews of, but wasn’t sure what to expect. I absolutely adored this book; it is perhaps my favourite book of the year so far. It’s a love story, but make it dark and twisty, character driven. And it has Mad Men vibes in my opinion, perhaps because Frank works in advertising. It is the characters in this book that make you want to read and read and read and read. It’s fascinating and feels like you’re watching something (you’re not sure exactly what) unfold, and you just want to know more. I’m not sure if you could say it’s as dark as My Dark Vanessa, but there is something appealing about ‘dark literature’.

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