Thursday 21 August 2014

It was fascinating to hear how authors Saskia Sarginson and Louise Millar approached writing their latest books when they visited Browsers this week.

They have both set their psychological suspense novels in Suffolk: 'Without You' is based around Orford, and 'The Hidden Girl' in a village somewhere north of Woodbridge. "It's so easy to get lost here," Louise said.


Monday 26 May 2014

I seem to have taken over the latest issue of 'Suffolk Magazine' - my articles about Griff Rhys Jones, Felixstowe Book Festival and thriller writer, Colette McBeth all appear, but my adventure as Three Women in a Boat is also reported, and I was asked to present my highlights for the coming month in the introductory page.



Thames ChallengeOur row along the Thames, marking the 125th anniversary of the publication of the classic Jerome K. Jerome tale 'Three Men in a Boat' seems to have captured the imagination of many.

Last week we were guests of honour at the unveiling of a blue plaque to the author at an unassuming terrace in Bloomsbury, London. We appeared in the Camden New Journal alongside the other guests - Griff Rhys Jones, Rory McGrath and Frank Dobson MP - and today we were speaking on BBC Radio Suffolk. Listen to our interview here.

It's lovely to get so much attention - if it helps our fundraising cause for Deben Rowing Club, and if we manage to complete the row: all eight days and 142 miles!

Thursday 10 April 2014

We are constantly being told that independent bookshops are a rarity, and indeed news of closures outstrips those of openings. However, there is still an astonishing creativity, professionalism and flair at work in this area and they are continuing to be beautiful, inspiring places to visit - proving as much a 'leisure attraction' as a resource or commodity.

Recently on a visit to friends in the North East, I returned to the wonderful Barter Books, a secondhand bookshop in a disused railway station in Alnwick, and made a further journey across the border to the award-winning book and giftshop, deli and cafe that is Main Street Trading Company in St Boswell's.

Both had a stunning attention to detail, decorating their spaces with more than the bookshelves. Both offered food and drink for sale, and places to sit and relax while browsing. Both made choosing a book a communal experience with displays, notices, advice. And both offered souvenirs of your visit! I couldn't resist, buying a beautiful ceramic monotone mug from each.

I think all booklovers agree that there is nothing like the pleasure, the sense of anticipation, in touching, feeling, turning the pages of a book (while not denying the resource that is the e-book).

Increasingly buying a book from a bookshop will be more than handing over cash and shoving the purchase in a plastic carrier. It will also be about selling a memory, a feeling, an experience.



Friday 7 March 2014

The longlist for the Baileys (no apostrophe!) Women's Prize for Fiction was announced last night and I'm more excited than I think I've ever been with a book prize! I've already read three of the titles, three more are on my must read list and I am familiar with almost all of them. So, full of anticipation and, if I get the time, to work my way through a few more of the books in order to make my own choice against that of the judges.


Sunday 5 January 2014

There was an astonishing debate running last week. It was initiated by Ruth Rendell who told the BBC Radio Four Front Row audience that she believes reading is now 'a specialist activity'.

I heard about this when a researcher from BBC Radio Suffolk called me at 8.30 in the morning asking me to debate the point on their programme 40 minutes later.

The researcher was unable to tell me the context of Rendell's argument. Ultimately it didn't matter because the presenter didn't want to talk about it at all when I went on air. You can hear what we did discuss here.

However, yesterday in the Guardian, Philip Hensher agreed with Rendell in his opinion piece. He pointed out that, while we should be in a golden age for reading, with books being so accessible in so many formats and for such a small fee, in fact it is not the case.

Hensher argues that 'we all pay lip service to the importance of reading, but no public body seems very interested in serving it'. Just as we are told it is good for us to eat five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day, so, he insists, the government should recommend we each read 15 books a year.

Really? More people are reading more books than ever before, and they are discussing and sharing what they are reading more than ever before...aren't they? Look at people travelling on trains and planes; look where books are being sold; look at the reviews and interviews in any magazine or newspaper;  the adaptations for film, tv, theatre; the literature festivals in every town; the book clubs for any interest or community; the awards and their subsequent sales.

Undoubtedly some people won't be reading, but hasn't that always been the case? If we want to kill a love of reading then we should urge the government to tell people it's good for them. Now, closing libraries, that's another issue entirely....