Penzance Literary Festival 6th – 9th July

http://www.pzlitfest.co.uk/events/     Well what fun!

I must confess that fellow BookEater Rachel  and I have been gorging ourselves at this year’s Penzance literary fest. We decided that for starters, and in order to work up an appetite huge enough to cope with all the delicious offerings that followed, we’d better begin with a good walk – and a good walk was exactly what we got.

Acorn-150x150We gathered with a handful of others  – both locals and visitors outside the Acorn at 6pm on a sunny evening. Our guide was the knowledgeable and entertaining Anna McClary who speaks with a charming lisping Germanic accent. Anna had clearly spent much time researching in the archives and journals of the amazing private but public Morrab Library (anyone can join for £3 per day or £30 py) that is a treasure trove of local knowledge.

Opposite the Acorn is the picturesque Phoenix House. Once the Registrar’s Office for Penzance it was here that Dylan Thomas finally managed, on the third attempt, to marry Caitlin – the two earlier intended visits had been abandoned in favour of drinking. Anna read Thomas’ poem ‘The hand that signed the Paper’ which seemed most appropriate in this week of Brexit fall-out.

We strolled through the quaint footlanes of central Penzance towards the Art School and alongside the leafy, almost hidden gardens of the tall pastel houses that have been home to so many writers, painters, musicians, poets, actors and artists. We traced the streets and paths that feature in Patrick Gale’s novel ‘Notes from an Exhibition’ and stood gazing at blue, white and pink houses wondering if it was this house or that he was picturing as he wrote of Rachel’s studio. Anna skilfully handed out photographs of old Penzance and read poems and snippets from other writers while casually throwing out comments such as “Of course Morwenna’s first attempt at suicide was in the lido” as we admired the sight of the wonderful art-deco Jubilee swimming pool framed against the indigo sea. Branwell House Little gems of local history were shared and stories exchanged including my tale of how I was offered the Branwell house for £1 – an offer that had I taken it up would have put me on a very different path through life.  Maria Branwell was born and raised here – but in 1812 she married Rev Patrick Bronte and moved to Yorkshire where she had six children including the famous Charlotte, Emily and Anne.

Charles Dickens, Rosamunde Pilcher, Dr Johnson, Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolfe amongst others were all mentioned but the purpose of the walk was entertainment rather than a lecture so great detail and lengthy explanations were avoided. Instead our group ambled and chatted, soaking up the ambience and laughing at the gossipy anecdotes and razor sharp observations garnered from the letters and diaries of authors who have visited or resided in Penzance.

Everyone enjoyed the walk and for Rachel and I it was a delightful hors d’ouvre before the authors’ talk (Patrick Gale and Julie Myerson) and the Shackleton lecture that we had booked for the next day.

 

 

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.

Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher

Clickity click for Amazon or pop along to your local library of indie book shop
Clickity click for Amazon or pop along to your local library of indie book shop
Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher is a big fat book. Huge. Gargantuan. Colossal. Behemothic. Leviathan. Cyclopean. Titanic.

Sorry, I got slightly carried away by all the exciting synonyms for huge but you have to admit that, at 1040 pages in paperback, it’s not a one-hander! In fact, it’s one of the books I have on my book shelf but also on my ereader because of its size. Well, I say it’s because of its size but in truth, it’s also because I can’t actually pick up the physical book any more without the binding falling even further apart, and random pages falling out!

Safe to say, this is one of my most read and most loved books. I read it when I’m happy. I read it when I’m sad. I read it when I am stressed or when I want to shut the world out. I read it every summer holidays and every Christmas holidays. I read it on planes, trains but not automobiles. If I don’t have time to read it all, I just put a random page number into my ereader and start from there- there’s no need to remind myself of the story, I already know it.

Coming Home, for me, is emotional perfection.

Which doesn’t blind me to the fact that, actually, it’s a book with a few flaws despite its emotional heart.

Set initially in Cornwall in the 1930s, it follows the story of Judith Dunbar who,  when her mother and little sister return to the Far East to be with Judith’s father, is sent to a boarding school in Penzance. Whilst at school Judith meets Loveday Carey-Lewis, youngest and most pampered daughter of a rich Cornish landowner who takes her home to Nancherrow. The characters are many and varied, and are, in the main, well rounded and relateable. Judith, however, could do with more growth and more openness in how she is written- by the end of the book, I don’t feel I know her any better than at the beginning. This doesn’t prevent me connecting with the book, in fact I wonder if it facilitates it by virtue of allowing me to put myself in her place. I see a lot of my friends and family in Pilcher’s characters and, frankly, could easily imagine my life being Judith Dunbar’s if I had been born in a different year!
The story continues into the war years, and the book does suffer somewhat from the rose-tinted spectacle approach but is still accurate enough to satisfy the historian! In fact, that’s one of the reasons I love it so much. It gives all sorts of little tidbits about the war which turn out to be wholly accurate and real (Yes, I have checked the more obscure ones!), and the Naval parlance is also accurate.

I didn’t actually live in Cornwall when I first read this book but now that I do, it just increases my enjoyment of reading it- I know all of these places!! Even the ones she makes up a name for! (Porthkerris? Yes, ok if you insist!) Pilcher grew up here in Cornwall and her love for the county shines through her wonderfully evocative descriptions. She makes Cornwall sound amazing all year round- although I do question the number of magical summer days with no rain they seem to have!

This certainly isn’t high literature but that isn’t why I read it. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to be whisked away for a few hours (actually many hours).

5 bites (but really 4 if I’m being more objective about it)

 

 

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.