This annual event takes place on the last weekend of June each year. Well, I say each year but last year was the first and this year the second time that the event has been held. In 2013 I was in Switzerland but it sounded good from the reports so this year I combined a visit with family in Norwich with a weekend of books at Felixstowe in Suffolk.
“A weekend by the sea for all who love to read”. I’m afraid the weather in Felixstowe on both days was appalling – constant rain almost throughout – but at least I wasn’t regretting being inside – although picnic lunch outside in the hotel garden and walk to see the sea might have been nice!
Last year a couple of book group friends attended and this year a couple more: me and Diney Costeloe. Elaine (Random Jottings), who lives at nearby Colchester has been one of the volunteer helpers each year.
Diney Costeloe is a member of our group and a published author. It’s hard to write about a talk given by someone you know and like and whose books you believe deserve much more attention than they have been given. This was her first book festival talk although she has done author signings and book group discussions. Diney chose to talk about her ‘writing story’ with humour and anecdotes but also adding some of the frustrating struggles authors face trying to get published these days. I’ve read all her books and they are gripping stories each one brings to our attention an often neglected aspect of the First or Second World War.
Eight ash trees were planted in 1921 as a memorial to the men from the village of Charlton Ambrose who were killed in World War One. Now the Ashgrove is under threat from developers, and the village is torn between the need for more housing and the wish to preserve the memorial. Rachel Elliott, a local journalist, is reporting the story and uncovers a mystery… eight men and nine trees – in whose memory is the ninth tree and who planted it? As she researches the memorial a diary and letters are given to her and as the story they tell unfolds Rachel discovers her own links with the past and with the Ashgrove itself and this makes her determined to save the Ashgrove as a memorial to all the men who lost their lives.
A fictional telling of the shooting for desertion in WW1.
Death’s Dark Vale
“When Adelaide Anson-Gravetty discovers she is not who she thought she was, her search for her true family leads her to the convent of Our Lady of Mercy in St Croix in northern France.
The defeat of France brings German occupation to the village, the nuns are caught up in a war that threatens both their beliefs and their lives. Involved with the resistance and British agents, Adelaide and the sisters truly walk in the shadow of death as they try to protect the innocent from the evil menace of the Nazi war machine.” [source]
Fiction on the theme of the wartime resistance movement in France and involvement of British agents.
Death’s Dark Vale has links to some of the characters in The Ashgrove but both books can be read independently. In fact I read them in the opposite ‘order’.
Evil on the Wind
“It is Germany 1937. Fear and betrayal stalk the streets. People disappear. Persecution of the Jews is a national pastime. Her home destroyed, her husband arrested by the SS after an anti-Jewish riot, Ruth Friedman is left to fend for herself and her four children. Homeless, she is forced to live on her wits to protect her family. She alone stands as their shield against the Nazis. Where should she go? What must she do? Is Kurt alive? Wherever she turns, Ruth is faced with indifference, hatred, cruelty. Living with the rising tyranny of the Nazis and their determination to make their Reich Jew Free, Ruth and her family run a desperate race to escape the Nazi terror as it marches inexorably to its ‘final solution’ of the Jewish Problem.”
About the Kindertransport mission before war was declared on Germany.
One of the Festival themes was The First World War so I was interested to hear Jeff Taylor talk about The First World War in East Anglian Fiction. Like Jeff I’m interested in place in fiction. Here is what the Festival Guide says about Jeff and his theme:
“The First World War had a presence in East Anglian fiction almost as soon as the war began and this continues into the present day. From the work of H.G.Wells through to that of children’s author Michael Foreman, Jeff will summon a roll-call of imagined characters who reflect the reality of the time. Jeff wrote a long-running column on East Anglia’s rich literary heritage in the Eastern daily Press.”
Jeff told us that when first approached he only wanted to speak about R H Mottram’s ‘The Spanish Farm Trilogy’ but the festival had suggested he broaden the talk to include all East Anglian literature so towards the end, after his piece on “What if … ?” books, he rather rushed through more recent books with a 1st WW theme but managed to include Diney’s The Ashgrove which was partly inspired by Colchester’s Avenue of Remembrance.
Although I made a few notes of books to follow up Jeff offered to send a booklist to anyone who cared to leave there email address with him.
Alex Munroe is a jewellery designer and maker. I’d never heard of him but booked the talk on the strength of the enthusiastic blog piece that arrived from the festival a few weeks ago. He’s written ‘Two Turtle Doves: a memoir of making things’.
It’s out soon in paperback but I’ll be requesting the library buy it. He told us that he thought if his friend Edmund de Waal can write a book … then so could he (tongue in cheek). He was very self-effacing but also very funny.
Alex Munroe meeting members of the audience and signing his book
Elaine’s daughter Helen McCarthy spoke about her new book on women diplomats.
“Helen’s book, Women of the world: The Rise of the Female Diplomat, is the first serious attempt to explore the place of women in British diplomatic life since the 19th century. The two World Wars cast women as new players on the international stage. In this fascinating talk Helen traces their influence and experiences as wives, patrons, experts and eventually as diplomats in their own right. Helen is Senior Lecturer in History at Queen Mary, University of London and previously was a Research Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge. Her first book was The British People and the League of Nations.” [Festival Notes]
All the events I attended were held in the Orwell Hotel and a couple of rooms were available for tea drinking and a local bookshop set a stall.
I stayed at a lovely old rectory B&B in the Suffolk countryside just beyond Sutton Hoo (NT) near Woodbridge.