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March 2023: Currently Reading

By - 31 March 2023 - 14:28pm

It's been a busy month, but here's what we've been reading!

Wow! March has been a busy month at Derby Book Festival HQ! If you’re signed up to our newsletter, you’ll know priority bookings opened for Festival Friends on Tuesday 28th March, with our general sale beginning on Tuesday 4 April at 10am.

You can browse our programme of events via the website now, and we’ll be delivering printed programmes to partner venues next week. We also announced the winner of Derby Children’s Picture Book Award, as voted for by children across Derby.

It’s been a record year in terms of submissions from publishers, the number of schools involved, and the number of children who voted. Huge congratulations to Alan Durant and Anna Doherty for Human Town, which is published by Tiny Owl Publishing.

More congratulations are in order for the winners of our Flash Fiction Writing Competition, which were announced on Friday 31st March alongside the winner of our illustration competition, run in partnership with the University of Derby.

It has been a hugely rewarding month, and we are busy behind the scenes working to expand our reach with a year-long community programme. Watch this space!

Until then, here’s a roundup of what we’ve been reading this month – have you read any of these books? Do any feature on your TBR pile?

Sue Wall, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: Twenty-Eight Pounds Ten Shillings – A Windrush Story by Tony Fairweather

Oh, the joys of libraries. I know I have said this before, but yet again, it is so true. This book, Twenty-Eight Pounds Ten Shillings, is not a book I was aware of, until I saw it in the local library, read the first couple of pages (and the back cover) and was hooked. It is a novel, but very much based on tales told to the author by his parents, and grandparents, and others from the Windrush generation.

For me, it brought Windrush to life, starting with thumbnail sketches of some of the passengers, their reasons for buying tickets, their hopes and expectations, their belief that they would return home after 5 years - and the reality. The time period is limited to the two weeks at sea up to the arrival in England, giving a very vivid picture of life on board from captain to stowaway, and the lives of the passengers during this epic journey. Definitely a slice of history told in a very accessible way.

Sarah Newton, Derby Book Festival Trustee: Mother’s Boy by Patrick Gale

To my embarrassment, it wasn’t until I finished Patrick Gale’s new book Mother’s Boy that I realised that this fictional biography is based on a real person – the Cornish poet Charles Causley. The author’s note tells us that the portrait is drawn from his diaries, papers and poems and Gale writes he has “shamelessly used fiction and conjecture to fill the gaps in stories that history and discretion had left blank”.

Charles is painted as a bookish boy with an overprotective mother. Their relationship is tenderly drawn, and we feel the impact of her love for him throughout the novel, which starts in the First World War and ends during the Second. Charles is a sensitive soul, who matures from a bewildered boy who feels out of place, into a young man who knows he must keep his true self hidden.

I am a huge fan of Patrick Gale, his work is always a comforting read and his characters are invariably drawn so well that you almost believe you have met them. This book is no exception. The Cornish villages are brought to life so brilliantly you can almost taste the salty air, and the relationship between mother and son shines brightly throughout the book.

It’s a beautiful tribute from one writer to another.

Keith McLay, Derby Book Festival Trustee and Interviewer: The Dead of Winter by Stuart MacBride

A highlight of my March reading was Stuart MacBride’s The Dead of Winter. A confirmed fan of MacBride’s Logan McRae and Oldcastle series, I approached this standalone novel with much enthusiasm. The action occurs in Glenfarach, an isolated Cairngorm village for convicted criminals who have served their time but are too dangerous to be released. The novel opens with the two main protagonists, DC Reekie and DI Montgomery-Parker, delivering a new inhabitant to Glenfarach when the killings begin… Perhaps a bit fantastical at points and with a plot which can be convoluted, the sheer chutzpah of the premise and MacBride’s style keeps one hooked.

Fiona Apthorpe, Derby Book Festival Trustee: The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

I am reading The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, a brilliant first novel, evocative, heart wrenching, beautiful and tragic. A multi-generational, sweeping novel telling the story of a North Vietnamese family through famine, loss and the horrors of war. If you liked The Kite Runner, you will love this.

Felicity, Festival Administrator: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

This book has been on my radar for years for a few reasons. I absolutely adored How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie and felt this had a similar vibe. Plus, it was nominated for the Book Prize and shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction (both 2019).

What I really love about this book is the writing about family relationships – specifically, sisters. But with the added twist of murder.

Korede’s younger sister, Ayoola, is beautiful. She’s the favourite child, she floats through life. Meanwhile, the expectations of Korede are different, and while she clearly loves her sister, the limits of her love are tested when Ayoola starts dating the man Korede is in love with…

As ever, we’d love to know if you’ve read any of these books and what you think of them?

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