Book Reviews · Events · Norwich

Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2015

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Norwich’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature is something to be proud of! The Norfolk and Norwich Festival, which takes place in May each year, is the heart of our local literary scene, and in celebration of the city’s status Writers’ Centre Norwich are taking over the Playhouse for two weeks of author talks, performances and workshops. There’s still time to read up on some of the honoured guests.

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Sarah Waters will open the NNF with a discussion on the gothic imagination. Her early novels take place in Victorian England, amidst thieves, actors and the secretive upper classes. Tipping the Velvet is probably her most famous novel, thanks to an excellent BBC adaptation which stars Keeley Hawes, Anna Chancellor and Sally Hawkins (BOOK ZONE 823.91 WAT) Nan, a teenage oyster-seller, becomes obsessed with music hall performer Kitty Butler. Nan secures a job as Kitty’s personal assistant, but quickly joins her on the London stage as a male impersonator. They soon become a couple, but Nan is horrified by Kitty’s decision to marry her manager Walter and conceal her true sexuality. Nan packs her male wardrobe and sets out on the streets of London, eventually joining the Suffragettes. Victorian London is often a threatening place on screen, and is no less so when viewed through Nan’s eyes. The docks are unfamiliar even to an oyster girl and Nan’s destitution makes her easy prey for pimps and bigots. As in Fingersmith (BOOK ZONE 823.91 WAT) some of the characters speak in thieves cant, a colourful slang language which is wonderfully realised on screen.

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Nan and Kitty perform in London’s West End in Tipping the Velvet

The Night Watch (BOOK ZONE 823.91 WAT) is set in 1947, after World War Two, but skips back in time to 1941 when London was under attack from German bombers. Viv and Helen work for a dating agency, matching war widows with eligible veterans. Viv’s brother Duncan, who was imprisoned during the war for “an indiscretion”, seems to know Viv’s new date, Fraser, but won’t reveal why. Helen’s ex-girlfriend Kay used to work for the ambulance service, and cared for Viv when her soldier Reggie left her in the hospital. Kay’s ex, Julia, left home with Helen on the same night, leaving Kay convinced that Helen died when their home was hit by bombing! Imagine watching Call the Midwife backwards, and you might come close to Night Watch. Only one character is haunted by an actual ghost, but Waters uses gothic elements- shadowy watchful figures, supernatural intuition- to help explain the powerful changes brought about by the end of war. Sarah will be appearing at the Playhouse on Saturday 8th May. 

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Anna Maxwell Martin in the BBC’s The Night Watch


 Tim Clare is a UEA graduate, and his first novel The Honours is currently Amazon’s Debut of the Month. The book has been described as a book for children which adults will read too, like Northern Lights by Philip Pullman or Coraline by Neil Gaiman. It definitely falls within the gothic genre- the heroine Delphine, who has been sent to a crumbling country house, believes the other inhabitants are linked to a murderous plot. Like Catherine in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey or modern Unfortunate hero Violet Baudelaire, Delphine’s active imagination and daring spirit draw her into all sorts of adventures! Tim found fame as a poet-slash-standup, and appeared alongside poet-slash-teacher Mark Grist at the Norwich Arts Centre. He has had anxiety-induced panic attacks since leaving university, and is often approached by audience members with similar diagnoses. He says The Honours is like Gremlins crossed with Downton Abbey– something his publishers aren’t happy about! You can meet this esteemed member of the ‘Norwich poetry mafia’ at the Cathedral on Saturday 16th May. His musical tribute to arbitrary lists is just one of his works available on YouTube 

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