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Guildford Book Festival 2015 authors share their favourite new reads

PUBLISHED: 10:29 12 October 2015 | UPDATED: 09:40 19 October 2015

Adele Parks

Adele Parks

Archant

The literary world is alive and kicking, and a prize-winning selection of its luminaries are heading to Guildford Book Festival this month. Here, we meet a number of this year’s authors to discover their current recommended reads...

Sir Dermot TuringSir Dermot Turing

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine October 2015

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Need to know…

This year’s Guildford Book Festival opens its pages from Sunday October 11 to Sunday October 18. As well as the authors featured here (and many more), the event opens with Brian Blessed and closes with Roger Moore. For the full line-up and to purchase tickets, visit guildfordbookfestival.co.uk

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Helen Lederer

Who?

Having started out as part of a group of early-1980s comedians, including Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, the late Rik Mayall and Ben Elton, who made their names at London’s Comedy Store, Helen Lederer has recently released her debut novel, Losing It. Her unique wit and observational humour mean that as well as writing and performing her own material, Helen has starred in many top TV comedy and radio shows, most notably as the dippy Catriona in all six series of Absolutely Fabulous.

Recommends…

“I recently revisited Muriel Spark as an author and was reminded how many witty, neat novellas were out there for my pleasure,” says Helen. “The Girls of Slender Means is a page-turner as well as being a delightful portrayal of bright post-war women. The dialogue is a treat – with characters painted through their dialogue and woven around a plot that hinges beautifully to the delicious world of the ‘May of Teck’ club. This is a home for the ‘pecuniary convenience and social protection of ladies of slender means below the age of thirty years’. The first line of the book says it all: ‘Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for exceptions’. There is farce and sadness, without much kindness, but so witty the reader is enthralled and will need to know about the fate of these women.”

GBF event:

Helen Lederer – Losing It, Tuesday October 13, 7pm, The Guildhall, High Street GU1 3AA. Tickets: adults, £7; concessions, £6; under-16s, £5

 

 

Clare Mackintosh

Who?

Having spent 12 years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander, Clare Mackintosh left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant, and now writes full-time. Clare’s debut novel, I Let You Go, is a Sunday Times best-seller and is the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer this year. It has been selected for both the Richard and Judy Book Club and ITV’s Loose Women’s Loose Books.

Recommends…

“My latest find is the book, Untouchable by Ava Marsh,” says Clare. “Tightly-plotted and beautifully written, Untouchable is an explosive erotic thriller that blows the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy out of the water. Stella is a high-class call girl working from her London flat. A cleverly drip-fed back-story prompts us to question why this intelligent, well-educated woman is working in the sex trade, and when one of Stella’s fellow escorts is murdered, the questions really stack up. Untouchable is a fast-paced crime novel in a genre of its own and I’m predicting great things for it. I only wish I’d written it!”

GBF event:

Richard and Judy Book Club – Meet the Authors: Clare Mackintosh and Saskia Sarginson, Tuesday October 13, 8.30pm, The Electric Theatre, Onslow Street GU1 4SZ. Tickets: adults, £8; concessions, £7; under-16s, £6

 

 

Catherine Mayer

Who?

Editor-at-Large of TIME magazine, Catherine Mayer has been writing about current affairs – and the Windsors – for more than three decades. Her landmark publication, Charles: The Heart of a King paints a startling portrait of the Prince of Wales, and sheds light into previously unseen corners of the man who has lived his whole life in the public eye, yet remains an enigma. Poignant, funny and often surprising, Catherine’s fascinating new biography reveals Prince Charles in all his complexity.

Recommends…

“The worst thing about writing books is not having enough time to read books,” says Catherine. “I’ve been making up for lost time this year, and recently read a few in quick succession: Polly Samson’s The Kindness; Elizabeth Day’s Paradise City; Luke Jennings’ Villanelle trilogy of short thrillers; and Mark Ellen’s hilarious music industry memoir, Rock Stars Stole My Life. The Peripheral, a novel by my favourite living author William Gibson, came out last November when I was still knee-deep in the proofs of my Prince Charles biography. I made myself wait until I’d sent off the last page before starting on Gibson’s immersive tale of the near future in which London is semi-derelict and ruled by oligarchs. Which is quite close to the bleak future Prince Charles predicts for the city.”

GBF event:

Catherine Mayer – Charles: The Heart of a King, Tuesday October 13, 12noon, The Guildhall, High Street GU1 3AA. Tickets: adults, £7; concessions, £6; under-16s, £5

 

 

Deborah Moggach

Who?

Author of many successful novels, including Tulip Fever and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which was made into a film starring Dame Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith, Deborah Moggach’s screenplays include Pride and Prejudice, which was nominated for a BAFTA. Her latest book, Something To Hide, is a warm, witty and wise novel about the unexpected twists that later life can bring.

Recommends…

“The best book I’ve read recently is The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters,” says Deborah. “In fact, I loved it so much I lent it to a fellow guest, on our holiday, so I’ll probably never see it again. I’m always doing this and it’s a real shame, because I end up with books I don’t like quite enough to lend, and all my favourites have gone. It’s set in South London in 1922 and deals with the aftermath of World War One –disillusion and casualties, but also liberation, especially for women. Frances and her genteel, upper-class mother are reduced to penury so have to rent out rooms in their house. Along come Lionel and Lilian, a tempestuous and attractive couple who turn the lives of their landladies upside down. For Frances falls for Lilian and in a plot that explores the darkest reaches of passion, as well as crime, we are caught up in a totally believable world whose characters feel as if they’re breathing in the room. Simply unputdownable.”

GBF event:

Deborah Moggach – Something to Hide, Wednesday October 14, 7pm, The Guildhall, High Street GU1 3AA. Tickets: adults, £8; concessions, £7; under-16s, £6

 

 

Adele Parks

Who?

One of our most-loved and biggest-selling women’s fiction writers in the UK, as well as a local resident and keen GBF supporter, Adele Parks has published 15 novels in 15 years, all of which have been Sunday Times best-sellers, with over three million UK editions sold. In her latest, If You Go Away, Adele reveals glamorous debutantes, heartbreak and just what is worth fighting for. An unforgettable and beautifully crafted work set during World War One, it examines a generation that had to face unbearable choices.

Recommends…

“The Mouse Proof Kitchen by Saira Shah is a brutally honest and marvellously unsentimental novel about becoming a mother of a disabled child and the subsequent impact that has on her relationship,” says Adele. “It is not an easy read as it forces the reader to question his or her own morality and limits, but I literally could not put this novel down. The bonus is that it’s set in France and has some beautiful descriptions of food; I put weight on just reading it! The Mouse Proof Kitchen is possibly the best thing I’ve read all year. Despite the heart-breaking subject matter it is uplifting and positive. A triumph.”

GBF event:

Literary Lunch with Adele Parks and Esther Freud, Tuesday October 13, 12noon, The Angel Hotel, High Street GU1 3DP. Tickets: adults, £24; concessions and under-16s, £22

 

 

Sir Dermot Turing

Who?

Nephew of the legendary code-breaker, Alan Turing, who grew up in Guildford, Sir Dermot Turing serves as a trustee of Bletchley Park, and also pursues interests in history and code-breaking. Like his uncle before him, Sir Dermot was educated at Sherborne and Cambridge, from where he moved into the legal profession. If The Imitation Game ignited interest in Alan Turing, Sir Dermot’s new biography, Prof: Alan Turing Decoded, takes a fresh perspective on the stories about a man who is still difficult to decipher; the man known as Prof.

Recommends…

“I would single out Norman Davies’ Vanished Kingdoms,” says Sir Dermot. “It’s a wry and entertaining look at some of Europe’s states that failed to survive, and while it has the characteristic breadth of scope that one expects from Professor Davies, it is punctuated by frequent dagger-thrusts of irreverent wit. I particularly enjoyed the half-page sentence consisting of the real surname of our very own Royal Family – it’s not Windsor. But to find out what that particular tale is doing in a book called Vanished Kingdoms, when the United Kingdom is still rather visible, you will have to read it for yourself.”

GBF event:

Sir Dermot Turing – Prof: Alan Turing Decoded, Monday October 12, 7pm, University of Surrey AP1, GU2 7XH. Tickets: adults, £7; concessions, £6; under-16s, £5

 

 

Gill Hornby

Who?

A writer and journalist, Gill Hornby lives with her husband, Robert Harris, and their four children in Kintbury, Berkshire. Her first novel, The Hive, was a top ten Sunday Times best-seller. Gill’s latest novel, All Together Now, is a funny, sharply-observed and moving novel about the joys of singing, about living in harmony, about falling in love... and about the importance of finding your own true voice.

Recommends…

“The Most of Nora Ephron has been my bedside companion for most of this year – there to pep me up in the morning or send me off to sleep with a smile,” says Gill. “It is the collected work of the late and seriously great American writer who, over 50 years, and in every possible medium (journalism, essays, novels, movies and blogs), articulated perfectly what it is to be a modern woman. Her gift was to write as she talked, so that to read her is to feel part of a brilliant conversation in which you have to do very little but nod, grin or give in and laugh till you cry. And her subject matter was always exactly what you wanted to talk about – Hillary Clinton, the state of your handbag, Watergate, what to cook for dinner, the history of feminism... She could be entertaining about anything, and was wiser than anyone. I never met her but still, since she died in 2012, I have missed her. This wonderful collection keeps her spirit and her words alive.”

GBF event:

Readers’ Day, Saturday October 17, 10am to 4pm, G Live, London Road GU1 2AA. Tickets: £29 (one ticket, six authors)

 

 

Sonia Purnell

Who?

Having started work at The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, edited a weekly financial magazine when she was only 25, and then gone on to senior positions in Fleet Street, Sonia Purnell’s First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill presents the often- ignored story of one of the most important women in modern British history.

Recommends…

“My book recommendation is Dearest Jane: My Father’s Life and Letters by Jane Torday, an edited collection of letters from her father, Roger Mortimer,” says Sonia. “Collections of letters, no matter how eminent or eloquent the correspondents concerned, can seem forbidding or dry. Yet this endearing book from Jane is neither. She weaves together dozens of extracts of the letters from her father – a man of wit, acute observation and certainty of view – to form a marvellous portrait of an eventful and wide-ranging 20th century life. I was particularly taken by his description of his struggles, doubts and hopes as a prisoner of war and, later in life, his tender words about his grandchildren. Few novels are as successful in bringing characters to life or encapsulating the experiences of the times in which they lived.”

GBF event:

Sonia Purnell – First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill, Wednesday October 14, 2pm, The Guildhall, High Street GU1 3AA. Tickets: adults, £7; under-16s, £5

 

 

Olivia Williams

Who?

Freelance writer and author, Olivia Williams, describes herself as a ‘taster of many gins’. A graduate in Modern History from St Edmund Hall, Oxford – where she won the Rupert Murdoch Scholarship for student journalism – Olivia worked as a trainee journalist at the Daily Mail before leaving to write Gin Glorious Gin last year. Olivia’s first book, it is a vibrant cultural history of London seen through the prism of its most iconic drink. Leading the reader through the underbelly of the Georgian city via the Gin Craze, it detours through the Empire (with a G&T in hand) to the emergence of cocktail bars in the West End. The story is brought right up to date with ‘the Ginnaissance’.

Recommends…

“I bought Never Mind by Edward St Aubyn on a whim in my local bookshop and took it home with no expectations,” says Olivia. “When I started it months later, I found myself caught off guard – entranced by its intelligence, beauty and pain. The subject matter is dark, but it’s treated with such elegance and concision that it’s entirely readable. The first of the Patrick Melrose novels, the series documents Patrick’s growth into adulthood from his cruel upbringing. I’m baffled that it’s not more widely-read, so cannot help pressing it on people on occasions like these. I also like to check that they’ve read Iris Murdoch and Gustave Flaubert too.”

GBF event:

Olivia Williams – Gin Glorious Gin, Monday October 12, 7.30pm, MKB, Alexandra Terrace GU1 3DA. Tickets: adults, £8; concessions, £7 (gin on arrival)

 

 

Paul Cox

Who?

Associate curator at London’s National Portrait Gallery, Paul Cox is the curator of its 2015 exhibition about the Duke of Wellington and writer of the biography Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions. Published to mark the bicentenary of Wellington’s famous victory at Waterloo, it examines the Duke’s varied life through images of the remarkable man himself and those closest to him, from the great portraits and commemorative battle paintings, to satirical prints and mass-produced souvenirs.

Recommends…

“Rice’s Architectural Primer, by Matthew Rice, was a very welcome recent gift,” says Paul. “Thanks to this book, I have been able to look at buildings more rewardingly by taking my first steps in ‘reading’ their language. Before I was someone who could, as the author describes, talk only vaguely about ‘that bit with knobbles and a point’; now I can identify a crocketed ogee arch with a little more confidence. Rice’s charming and beautiful drawings share equal status with the text: clear but playful, informative without being diagrammatic, they make learning a visual pleasure as well as an intellectual one, and I would certainly recommend it.”

GBF event:

Paul Cox – Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions, Tuesday October 13, 2pm, The Guildhall, High Street GU1 3AA. Tickets: adults, £7; concessions, £6; under-16s, £5

 

 

Terry Waite

Who?

Terry Waite negotiated the release of hostages around the world until January 1987, when he was taken hostage in Lebanon himself. He remained in captivity for 1,763 days, well over four years of which were spent in solitary confinement. Released in November 1991, he has since dedicated himself to study, writing, lecturing and humanitarian activities. Terry maintains that it is his sense of humour that enabled him to endure the difficulties he has experienced, and now he shares this side of his personality in The Voyage of the Golden Handshake.

Recommends…

“Very occasionally, one comes across an individual who immediately captivates not only by their prose style but also by the depth of their critical analysis of contemporary society,” says Terry. “The late Tony Judt was one such individual. In 2008, he was diagnosed with ALS, paralysing him from the neck downwards and finally killing him. Right until the end, this remarkably brave social historian remained as intellectually astute as ever and his final three books, written when he knew he was dying, The Memory Chalet, Ill Fares the Land and Thinking in the Twentieth Century, are essential reading for anyone who would despair at the material shallowness of much of life today. Quite brilliant.”

GBF event:

Terry Waite CBE – The Voyage of the Golden Handshake, Monday October 12, 2pm, The Guildhall, High Street GU1 3AA. Tickets: adults, £7; concessions, £6; under-16s, £5

 

 

Tasmina Perry

Who?

Sunday Times best-selling author Tasmina Perry left a career in law to enter women’s magazine publishing, becoming an award-winning writer and contributor to titles such as Elle, Glamour and Marie Claire.

Recommends…

“I’ve just spent some time in America and loved discovering fantastic authors who are less well known in the UK,” says Tasmina. “One find was Rainbow Rowell, whose books first winked at me because she has such a fabulous name! She’s best known as a young adult author but I romped through her adult book, Landline. The plotline is vaguely Sliding Doors – a successful sitcom writer with a troubled marriage finds an old phone that connects her with a younger, happier version of her husband. But behind the cutesy premise is a smart and thoughtful look at the romantic choices we make and the impact they have on our life. Rainbow also has that David Nicholls-esque skill of creating characters who you root for after just a few pages.”

GBF event:

Afternoon Tea with Tasmina Perry, Wednesday October 14, 3.30pm, Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, Alexandra Terrace GU1 3DA. Tickets: adults, £19; under-16s, £18

 

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