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3 Festivals for 2024


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March 2024: Currently Reading

By - 17 April 2024 - 15:07pm

What have you been reading recently?

Our Summer Festival is now on sale! In the flurry of activity leading up to the release of the programme, the team have found time to read a book or two. Here’s a roundup of the best.

Keith McLay, Derby Book Festival Chair of Trustees: The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, Lies of Silence and The Doctor’s Wife by Brian Moore

Over the past month I have discovered the oeuvre of Brian Moore which I have been working my way through. A Northern Irish author and screenwriter who emigrated to Canada and lived for a long time in California, Moore wrote upwards of 23 novels between the early 1950s and his death in 1999. Thus far for me the three stand-outs are The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, Lies of Silence and The Doctor’s Wife. All are beautifully stylised with sparse, resonant language addressing for the times contemporary themes such as the Troubles in Northern Ireland, moral Hobson’s Choices, frustrated ambition and the individual and societal impact of religion and the Catholic Church. I’m looking forward to continuing through Moore’s works, all of which are readily available as new reprints or as second-hand copies.

Sue Wall, Derby Book Festival Trustee: The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Yet again, a library book which I was attracted to both by its title, "The Mountains Sing", and also the country as I lived in Vietnam for over a year back in 2017, working in an educational charity. So the subject matter seemed directly relevant to me - Vietnam's past is still very much Vietnam's present, with families scarred by the events of the Vietnam war and the country's earlier history. This is her first novel, although she is an established poet and writer of short fiction, and she is more than capable of handling what is described as an "epic account of Vietnam's painful 20th century history". Through her characters and her descriptions, the authentic horror of a civil war which divides families becomes very accessible to a Western reader - and although she does not attempt to disguise any of the vicious realities of this conflict, it is also a story of hope and courage, seen through the lives of two extraordinarily resilient women. I found it hard to put down.

Liz Fothergill: Spilt Milk by Amy Beashel and The Family by Kate Sawyer

Two page-turning family-focussed novels with lots to say about love and loss, the arrival of a new baby and the impact on relationships.

Maddie, Festival and Office Administrator: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Technically, this is what I’m currently listening to. Narrated by the late, great Ron McLarty - American actor, playwright and novelist (also a prolific audiobook narrator) - Salem’s Lot is, arguably, one of the greatest vampire novels of all time. It’s certainly my favourite. It brings together the gothic splendour of traditional vampire texts and folklore, and King’s own wry take on mid-century Americana. It’s completely un-put-downable and remains truly frightening.

Rose, Strategic Lead for Shared Reading: A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.

I've been storming at pace through the 'A Court of Thorns and Roses' series by Sarah J. Maas. In the last month I read the first two books in the series; A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury. They were both very quick reads for me, as I fell in love with the characters and the world of fairies. I can't say everything in the books are perfect as some elements made me angry and wanting more, but they're fast paced and easy to read. The characters will grow on you, some of the scenes are a little bit raunchy (so don't do what I did and read it on the train!) and world-building is dream-like. I can't wait to continue on with the series.

Amy, Shared Reading Volunteer and Support Officer: How should a person be? by Sheila Heti.

In How Should A Person Be? the protagonist Sheila is trying to finish her play. She wants it to be relevant to society and to communicate something of what it means to be a young, creative woman living in the world at this point in time. Through her struggle to write the play, which is embedded in her life as a young writer seeking to make sense of ‘how to be’, Sheila examines ideas around identity, friendship, religion, female authority and patriarchy, art and sex, as well as the expectations of family and society in general. Her struggle with procrastination and her attempt to understand herself is frequently surreal, relatable and hilarious. This novel is part auto-fiction, part play, and crams a lot in! Some of the stream of consciousness sections felt a bit heavy going, but overall I think it is absolutely brilliant. The ending in particular is very satisfying, and refuses to provide any easy answers. This is the first book of Heti’s that I’ve read, and it won’t be the last.

Felicity, Festival Administrator: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas.

Earlier this year, I ventured into the realm of Romantasy. It was sort of accidental really, I thought I had picked up a fantasy book, but it didn’t disappoint. Since then, I’ve decided to delve into the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. I’ve just finished the fourth book, Queen of Shadows, and am invested. We’re following Celaena Sardothien as she prepares to take back the throne of Terrasen. It feels like every battle and every scar she’s gotten so far has been preparing her for this moment. Everything starts coming together, but there are still unexpected twists and turns along the way…

Gini, Festival Manager: In Memoriam by Alice Winn

I can't put it better than Maggie O'Farrell...

'It's hard to believe that In Memoriam is a debut novel as it's so assured, affecting and moving. Alice Winn has written a devastating love story between two young men that moves from the sheltered idyll of their public school to the unspeakable horrors of the Western Front during the First World War. Gaunt and Ellwood will live in your mind long after you've closed the final pages.'

Have you read any of the books featured in this month’s Currently Reading? We’d love to know what you’re currently reading. Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter and follow us across social media!

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