Having enjoyed my first week I was excited for my second week, not only because of the variety but it meant I got to meet two of my ‘virtual’ blogging and author friends in action for the first time. Before I embark on week 2 though – in case you missed Part 1 you can catch up here. Don’t forget to check here what events are left as part of this very friendly festival.
Monday 10th June
Tonight saw me back at the Davenham Theatre to listen to fellow blogger Anne Williams talk about all things books, but more specifically blogging. Anne blogs as Being Anne and is one of our most respected book bloggers with over 9,500 subscribers. Anne’s blog is now approaching six years old during which time it has earned Anne the accolade of the Best Pal Blog Award at the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Annual Bloggers’ Bash. I’m sure she’d also win this year if there wasn’t a 3 win limit.
It is always interesting to hear fellow bloggers talk about how they came to blogging, how they choose to blog and what they like to read. While collectively identified as ‘book bloggers’ we are all different, with our own unique approaches. Anne particularly enjoys women’s contemporary fiction and romance and loves reading books from smaller independent publishers and self-published authors. Anne recognises that it’s hard to get yourself seen and heard in today’s highly competitive book market and consequently likes to help those that are less visible by giving them a shout out. That shout out might be via reviews or features such as – interviews, guest posts, promotions and giveaways. In addition, she also undertakes the occasional Blog Tour, though normally for a book she’s been keen to read anyway. Good job she’s now retired as all that certainly keeps her busy!!
It was lovely to finally get to meet Anne after ‘knowing’ her online for a number of years. I know that the audience were as pleased as I was to have her visit as it gave them a real understanding and insight into the world of book blogging and what it covers.
Tuesday 11th June
Tonight it was a return to my old stomping ground of Northwich Library. I started my life with Cheshire Libraries as a librarian at Northwich in 1990 with periods away to other libraries for maternity leave secondments and special projects before I left the service in 2004. So I was keen to see what they’d done with ‘my’ library in the intervening years, but I was even keener to see Judith Barrow and Thorne Moore ‘In Conversation’. Judith was another ‘online’ friend it was nice to actually meet.
Judith and Thorne are two Pembrokeshire based writers who together also run the annual Narberth Book Fair. Both authors are published by Honno Press a Welsh women’s press, run as an independent co-operative. The press concentrates solely on publishing writing by the women of Wales, with the twin aims of increasing publication opportunities for Welsh women and expanding the audience for Welsh women’s writing.
The broad subject of Judith’s and Thorne’s conversation was ‘Keeping it in the family : domestic drama’. This is because within their own work, drama and families play a central role. While Judith’s books take us on a historical journey with her family dramas it’s clear that you can’t always escape the past. Meanwhile Thorne writes ‘domestic psychological mysteries’ as she says ‘you don’t need to look outside the home to find drama, obsession, tension, tragedy and triumph’. It was an enjoyable evening as the pair are clearly good friends which made the conversation more like eavesdropping on a friendly chat as we discovered what they like to write about and why families are at the heart of their work.
Thorne writes novels and short stories – crime, paranormal, historical and family dramas
While Thorne has been described as psychological crime writer, in her books the ‘crime’ is of interest because of the way it impacts people’s lives.
It’s the consequences of a dramatic or murderous act that is the focus. Although like Judith, history is also a popular theme and in particular the imprint or hangover that time and actions leave behind for following generations.
Kate Lawrence can sense the shadow of violent death, past and present.
In her struggle to cope with her unwelcome gift, she has frozen people out of her life.
Her marriage is on the rocks, her career is in chaos and she urgently needs to get a grip.
So she decides to start again, by joining her effervescent cousin Sylvia and partner Michael in their mission to restore and revitalise Llys y Garn, an old mansion in the wilds of North Pembrokeshire.
It is certainly a new start, as she takes on Sylvia’s grandiose schemes, but it brings Kate to a place that is thick with the shadows of past deaths.
The house and grounds are full of mysteries that only she can sense, but she is determined to face them down – so determined that she fails to notice that ancient energies are not the only shadows threatening the seemingly idyllic world of Llys y Garn.
The happy equilibrium is disrupted by the arrival of Sylvia’s sadistic and manipulative son, Christian – but just how dangerous is he?
Then, once more, Kate senses that a violent death has occurred…
Llys y Garn is a rambling Victorian-Gothic mansion with vestiges of older glories.
It lies in the isolated parish of Rhyd y Groes in North Pembrokeshire. It is the house of the parish, even in its decline, deeply conscious of its importance, its pedigree and its permanence. It stubbornly remains though the lives of former inhabitants have long since passed away. Only the rooks are left to bear witness to the often desperate march of history.
Throne Moore’s Long Shadows: Tales of Llys y Garn comprises a trio of historical novellas that let us into secrets known only to these melancholy birds.
The Good Servant is the story of Nelly Skeel, loveless housekeeper at Llys y Garn at the end of the 19th century, whose only focus of affection is her master’s despised nephew. But for Cyril Lawson she will do anything, whatever the cost.
The Witch tells of Elizabeth Powell, born as Charles II is restored to the English throne, in a world of changing political allegiances, where religious bigotry and superstition linger on. Her love is not for her family, her duty, her God or her future husband, but for the house where she was born. For that she would sell her soul.
The Dragon Slayer tells of Angharad ferch Owain in the early decades of the 14th century. Angharad is an expendable asset in her father’s machinations to recover old rights and narrow claims, but she dreams of bigger things and a world without the roaring of men. A world that might spare her from the seemingly inevitable fate of all women.
When they were ten everybody wanted to be Serena’s friend, to find themselves one of the inner circle. But doing so meant proving your worth, and doing that often had consequences it’s not nice to think about – not even thirty-five years later.
Karen Rothwell is randomly reminded of an incident in her childhood which just as suddenly becomes an obsession. It takes her on a journey into a land of secrets and lies; it means finding that gang of girls from Marsh Green Junior School and most importantly of all finding Serena Whinn.
One mother’s need is another’s nightmare
1990, and three woman are contemplating motherhood. Lindy is homeless and longs for a family. Heather is stressed and dreading another baby. Gillian is childless and aching. When two babies are born in Lyford hospital, it’s the start of a new life for all three. For two, it’s a dream come true. For the third, it’s the beginning of a nightmare.
22 years later, two girls set out to discover who they really are, But answers aren’t easy to come by, or easy to accept.
When Sarah, struggling to get over tragedy, stumbles across her grandparents’ ruined farm, it feels as if the house has been waiting for her. She is drawn to their apparently idyllic way of life and starts to look into her family history only to learn that her grandfather, Jack, was murdered. Why has nobody told her? Sarah becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Gwen and Jack. But are there some family stories that should never be told…
A collection of short stories by the author of A Time For Silence, Motherlove and The Unravelling.
The collection includes comedies, tragedies and histories. What is the true value of an old tea pot? (The Accountant). What happened on an uneventful day in Gloucestershire (It Was Late June). Has anyone stopped to look at a monument in the middle of Haverfordwest? (Dances On The Head Of A Pin). What lies behind the torn wallpaper of an old cottage? (Footprints).
The collection also includes three tales that add a little extra colour to the novels of Thorne Moore.
Judith’s first book Pattern of Shadows was inspired by research into Glen Mill, a disused cotton mill in Oldham, Lancashire, and its history of being the first German POW camp in the country. That triggered a personal memory of her mother working in a cotton mill. The comparison between the two very different experiences made her realise that that was what she wanted to write about.
It began what became a trilogy following the Howarth and Schormann families through the 1940, 50’s and 60’s. A prequel to the trilogy looks at the period 1910-24
Mary is a nursing sister at Lancashire prison camp for the housing and treatment of German POWs. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling, life at home a constant round of arguments, until Frank Shuttleworth, a guard at the camp turns up. Frank is difficult to love but persistent and won’t leave until Mary agrees to walk out with him.
In May 1950, Britain is struggling with the hardships of rationing and the aftermath of the SecondWorldWar. Peter Schormann, a German ex-prisoner of war, has left his home country to be with Mary Howarth, matron of a small hospital in Wales. The two met when Mary was a nurse at the POW camp hospital. They intend to marry, but the memory of Frank Shuttleworth, an ex-boyfriend of Mary’s, continues to haunt them and there are many obstacles in the way of their happiness, not the least of which is Mary’s troubled family. When tragedy strikes, Mary hopes it will unite her siblings, but it is only when a child disappears that the whole family pulls together to save one of their own from a common enemy.
Sequel to the acclaimed Changing Patterns and Pattern of Shadows. It’s 1969 and Mary Schormann is living quietly in Wales with her ex-POW husband, Peter, and her teenage twins, Richard and Victoria. Her niece, Linda Booth, is a nurse – following in Mary’s footsteps – and works in the maternity ward of her local hospital in Lancashire. At the end of a long night shift, a bullying new father visits the maternity ward and brings back Linda’s darkest nightmares, her terror of being locked in. Who is this man, and why does he scare her so? There are secrets dating back to the war that still haunt the family, and finding out what lies at their root might be the only way Linda can escape their murderous consequences.
It’s 1911 and Winifred Duffy is a determined young woman eager for new experiences, for a life beyond the grocer’s shop counter ruled over by her domineering mother.
The scars of Bill Howarth’s troubled childhood linger. The only light in his life comes from a chance encounter with Winifred, the girl he determines to make his wife.
Meeting her friend Honora’s silver-tongued brother turns Winifred’s heart upside down. But Honora and Conal disappear, after a suffrage rally turns into a riot, and abandoned Winifred has nowhere to turn but home.
The Great War intervenes, sending Bill abroad to be hardened in a furnace of carnage and loss. When he returns his dream is still of Winifred and the life they might have had… Back in Lancashire, worn down by work and the barbed comments of narrow-minded townsfolk, Winifred faces difficult choices in love and life.
Although the weather conspired to possibly reduce the numbers, it was an evening that was thoroughly enjoyed by all and hopefully Judith and Thorne felt the same. Thankfully you can always rely on a library for WiFi as I needed a quick check on Goodreads to see which books I already had before I might have purchased a couple more books.
Wednesday 12th June
The final night of my festival and what a cracker to go out on. The venue this time was Weaver Hall Museum, an apt historical setting for historian and distinguished biographer Anne Sebba. The subject of Anne’s talk was Wallis Simpson, or ‘That Woman’ as she was referred to by the Queen Mother. In 2011, Anne published That Woman: a life of Wallis Simpson Duchess of Windsor. A book that was groundbreaking in view of what it revealed.
I’m sure I’m not alone in being fascinated by the story of Wallis Simpson and her role in the abdication of Edward VIII. Anne’s talk not only helped to put it into context but put a whole new slant on the perceived wisdom and mythology courtesy of previously unseen letters. Anne had been given access to a collection of letters written by Wallis to her ex husband Ernest Simpson. They came from an impeccable source, as they were owned by Ernest’s son from a later marriage (that’s another story). These letters formed the basis of a Channel 4 television documentary Wallis Simpson : the Secret Letters. What they revealed was that Wallis didn’t love Edward VIII and certainly didn’t want to marry him, as she was still in love with her husband.
Anne’s talk was illuminating and informative and presented a Wallis, who reacting to her personal circumstances constantly appeared to follow the money when it came to men. Unfortunately on this occasion she had somehow backed herself into a corner from which she couldn’t escape – and the rest as they say is history.
I for one, came away with a different slant on the story and a different view of Wallis. She became less the pursuer and more the pursued, but having admittedly initiated the chase she’d literally made her bed and was forced to lie in it.
Historian Anne Sebba has written the first full biography by a woman of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor.
‘That woman’, as she was referred to by the Queen Mother, became a hate figure for ensnaring a British king and destabilising the monarchy. Neither beautiful nor brilliant, she nevertheless became one of the most talked-about women of her generation, and she inspired such deep love and adoration in Edward VIII that he gave up a throne and an empire for her. Wallis lived by her wit and her wits, while both her apparent and alleged moral transgressions added to her aura and dazzle.
Based on new archives and material only recently made available, this scrupulously researched biography sheds new light on the character and motivations of a powerful, charismatic and complex woman.
June, 1940. German troops enter Paris and hoist the swastika over the Arc de Triomphe. The dark days of Occupation begin. How would you have survived? By collaborating with the Nazis, or risking the lives of you and your loved ones to resist?
The women of Paris faced this dilemma every day – whether choosing between rations and the black market, or travelling on the Metro, where a German soldier had priority for a seat. Between the extremes of defiance and collusion was a vast moral grey area which all Parisiennes had to navigate in order to survive.
Anne Sebba has sought out and interviewed scores of women, and brings us their unforgettable testimonies. Her fascinating cast includes both native Parisiennes and temporary residents: American women and Nazi wives; spies, mothers, mistresses, artists, fashion designers and aristocrats. The result is an enthralling account of life during the Second World War and in the years of recovery and recrimination that followed the Liberation of Paris in 1944. It is a story of fear, deprivation and secrets – and, as ever in the French capital, glamour and determination.
After a three-day romance Brooklyn-born Jennie Jerome married into the British aristocracy, becoming Lady Randolph Churchill. At a time when women were afforded few freedoms, she was a behind-the-scenes political dynamo. However it was Jennies love life that marked her out, earning her the epithet more panther than woman. In other ways, Jennie was deeply loyal to her husband. When he was dying of syphilis she took him on a round-the-world trip to conceal his violence and mania.
Her great project became her son, Winston, with whom she was entwined in an intense mutual dependency. Jennie died suddenly in 1921 and although Winston was not to become the nation’s leader for another two decades, he had acquired from his mother an unshakeable faith in his destiny.
With unprecedented access to private family correspondence, newly discovered archival material and interviews with Jennie’s two surviving granddaughters, Anne Sebba draws a vivid and frank portrait of her subject. She repositions Jennie as a woman who refused to be cowed by her eras customary repression of women. Jennie Churchill was creative and passionate, determined to live life to the full.
The poignant story
of how William Bankes, friend of Byron and the Duke of Wellington, caught in compromising circumstances in Green Park, turned his personal tragedy into posterity’s benefit by creating a country house gem from exile in Italy.
I’ve had a fabulous week, I’ve been informed, amused and thoroughly entertained. Thanks to all who took part front of stage, on stage and behind the scenes that made it happen. This reader very much appreciates it.