When the stakes are high, how low will Ayesha Scott go? The protagonist of Rothschild’s new novel has a perfect life, but behind every realised dream lurks an unexploded nightmare. In the course of one day Ayesha discovers that she will be penniless, homeless and powerless unless she can outwit the international mafia, infiltrate the world of high finance and make backstreet deals with the shadiest members of the art world. Writer, film-maker and philanthropist Hannah Rothschild speaks to journalist Rosie Boycott about High Time and how she captures humour on the page.
In 1790, whalers from Nantucket are invited to found the port of Milford Haven in west Wales. But what does the arrival of these hardy Quakers mean for the local population? And what is the meaning of the beached whale that preceded them? As two cultures clash, concern swerves into hysteria against the incomers, and a local preacher plans a grotesque, Jonah-inspired fate for the whalers. Nathan Munday, a writer and trainee minister, talks to writer and broadcaster Horatio Clare about how his novel Whaling explores our relationship with nature, the boundary between faith and superstition, and the world of immigration.
Alexander McCall Smith’s much loved character Precious Ramotswe first came to life on the pages of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency 25 years ago. Join us as we celebrate this global success. The author gives us insights into his writing career and a glimpse of the many series that have been published in the intervening years, including 44 Scotland Street series and a new novel in the Detective Varg series, The Discreet Charm of the Big Bad Wolf.
Writer and comedian Josie Long takes us on a trip through her frank and funny debut story collection, Because I Don't Know What you Mean and What you Don’t, in conversation with classicist and comedian Natalie Haynes. With a cast of characters ranging from friends setting up a business to help relieve the wealthy of their guilt, to a cul-de-sac WhatsApp group with eggs to spare, these tales of the unexpected are comical, refreshing and often deeply relatable. Long won the Best Newcomer award at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has been nominated three times for Best Show. She is a regular on BBC Radio 4 and the co-presenter of Book Shambles with Robin Ince.
Join actor Callum Scott Howells (It’s a Sin, Cabaret) and writer and director Luke Collins (Cappuccino, Swiped) as they present a screening of On the Black Hill, adapted from Bruce Chatwin’s 1982 novel, which tells the story of identical twin brothers who grow up on a farm in rural Wales and never leave home. Howells, nominated for a Bafta for his performance in It’s a Sin, and Collins, an award winner for his cinematography across two BBC short films, discuss Chatwin’s moving ability to explore the larger questions of the human experience and why the novel remains a classic piece of writing for the rural borderlands of Wales and England. Chaired by poet Owen Sheers. The discussion will last for around 45 minutes, followed by the one-hour film screening.
It’s all too easy to think of Agatha Christie as a very proper Edwardian lady of leisure, until you discover she loved fast cars and went surfing in Hawaii, as well as of course writing some of the most enduring and best-loved British murder mysteries. Historian and television presenter Lucy Worsley, joint chief curator at the Historic Royal Palaces, presents a new side of Christie in Agatha Christie – A Very Elusive Woman, her account of the writer’s life, based on personal letters and papers that have rarely been seen. Join Worsley to discover the writer who, despite the obstacles of class and gender, became an astonishingly successful working woman.
Drawing on over a decade of archival research, Rebecca N Mitchell, professor of Victorian literature and culture at the University of Birmingham, shows that the effortless wit and writing of Wilde – often chided by detractors for being indolent and egotistical – was actually the product of studious and carefully concealed labour. Mitchell takes a look at the manuscript evidence which shows that he worked tirelessly at his craft, filling notebooks with drafts and carefully revising his bon mots.
Dolan and Heisey delve into the complicated world of relationships – with yourself, friends and romantic partners – as they discuss their novels. Dolan’s The Happy Couple follows a cast of characters in the run-up to a wedding, as they all try and find their happily ever after. Heisey’s Really Good, Actually follows Maggie, getting divorced as she approaches her 30th birthday, and having to rediscover who she really is. Heisey, an author and TV writer, and Dolan, a novelist, discuss writing love and friendship with humour, relatability and vulnerability.
The International Booker Prize is awarded annually for a single book and celebrates the vital work of translators, with the £50,000 prize money divided equally between author and translator. The 2023 prize will be announced on Tuesday 23 May and we will present the winning author and translator in conversation with Gaby Wood, Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, and judge Tan Twan Eng, the Booker-shortlisted Malaysian novelist.
Alice Winn’s debut novel is the story of a forbidden romance set against the backdrop of the First World War. In Memoriam tells the tale of Henry Gaunt, infatuated with his best friend Sidney Ellwood but unaware that Ellwood feels the same. Trying to escape his feelings by enlisting in the British Army, Gaunt is soon joined by Ellwood, and the pair find solace in fleeting moments, knowing that death could come for them as it has their friends and fellow soldiers. Winn, who lives in Brooklyn and writes screenplays, is in conversation with Costa Novel Award-winner Claire Fuller.
Diana Evans, whose 2018 novel Ordinary People won the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature, returns with a new London-set story, A House for Alice. Following a family whose matriarch, the titular Alice, decides after 50 years of living in London that she wants to live out the rest of her days in the land of her birth – Nigeria – the novel is a look at family secrets and tensions set against the shadows of the Grenfell disaster and a country in turmoil. Dani Shapiro’s most recent novel Signal Fires is a meditation on family, memory, and the healing power of interconnectedness, telling the story of two families bound together in ways they never could have imagined.
Ever wondered how science becomes fiction? Join Sherlock and Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat and These Days author Lucy Caldwell in conversation with physics professor Rob Appleby as they discuss Collision: Stories From the Science of CERN, a unique collaboration pairing a team of authors with physicists at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. From the possibilities of interstellar travel using quantum tunnelling to first contact with antimatter aliens, the trio talk about exploring these scientific steps through fiction and essays.
Get an insight into the world of publishing with Rebecca F Kuang’s highly anticipated satirical thriller Yellowface, in which a woman watches her frenemy – and super successful author – Athena Liu die…and then steals her manuscript and publishes it under her own name. Kuang discusses skewering the publishing industry, trial by social media, toxic friendships and the co-option of identity politics, and whether any of her characters are taken from real life. Yellowface is Kuang’s first adult contemporary novel; her fantasy epic Babel, which drew on her experiences as a translator and an Oxford graduate, was a New York Times bestseller.
Award-winning author Claire Fuller welcomes readers into the haunting world of her new novel Memory of Animals, a book about love, memory and survival. Running from grief and guilt, Neffy volunteers for a controlled vaccine trial. After the London streets fall silent and all external communications cease, only Neffy and four other volunteers remain in the unit. Introduced to a pioneering and controversial technology which allows her to revisit memories from her life before, Neffy becomes intoxicated by the freedom of the past, and increasingly turns away from her perilous present, putting any chance of a future into jeopardy. Fuller talks to Georgina Godwin, journalist and Books Editor for Monocle 24.
Booker Prize-shortlisted Tan Twan Eng returns to discuss his first novel in more than a decade with journalist and editor Alex Clark. A novel about love and betrayal set in 1920s Penang, The House of Doors is based on the true story behind W Somerset Maugham’s short story The Letter, and features the writer as a character. Willie is beleaguered by an unhappy marriage, ill health and financial worries, and struggling to write. With his charming secretary Gerald, Willie arrives at an old friend’s house, and strikes up a friendship with his wife Lesley. The pair share their secrets with each other, including Lesley’s connection to the case of an Englishwoman charged with murder in the Kuala Lumpur courts – a tragedy drawn from fact, and worthy of fiction.
A story of community, friendship and the power of creativity and connection, To Fill a Yellow House centres on Kwasi and his family, who move abruptly from one side of London to the other. Kwasi is fascinated by the local high street near his new home, but as the years pass business is slow and times are getting tougher. One night, finding himself in trouble, Kwasi takes shelter in an eclectic charity shop, The Chest of Small Wonders. There, he begins an unexpected friendship with widower Rupert, and the pair unite to save the shop, even as tensions around them escalate. Anie is a British-Ghanaian writer.
Find out how master storyteller Kingsolver reimagined Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield for her new novel, placing her version in the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Demon Copperhead, who gives the book its title, is born to a single mother in a single-wide trailer, in an area where poverty is all around, and the opioid crisis is striking neighbours, parents and friends. Demon craves affection and safety – and a glimpse of the ocean – and his tale of love and loss shows just how he’ll travel to try and get there. Kingsolver has been shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, and in 2010 won what is now the Women’s Prize for fiction for her novel The Lacuna.
There will not be a book signing after this event.
Older women have often been sidelined, or ignored completely, in fiction, but novelists Joanne Harris and Fran Littlewood are here to correct that in conversation with psychotherapist Maxine Mei-Fung Chung. Joanne Harris’ Broken Light follows a 50-year-old whose dreams and ambitions have been forgotten by everyone, including herself, and whose childhood memories – and a hidden talent – are unlocked by a murder. Fran Littlewood’s Amazing Grace Adams takes place across a single day, following the titular character as she seeks to reconnect with her daughter and husband. Join Harris and Littlewood as they discuss how ‘women of a certain age’ are far from invisible and boring.
Go on a journey of self-discovery with Andrew Aziza, the protagonist of The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa. Preoccupied with hanging out with friends, grappling with his fantasies about white girls, and obsessing over mathematical theorems, ideas of black power and HXVX: the Curse of Africa, Andy’s life is thrown off balance when he falls in love with Eileen and an unfamiliar man claims to be his father. Stephen Buoro, a recipient of the Booker Prize Foundation scholarship, talks to historian David Olusoga about creating Andy Africa and writing a tragicomedy.
Two of our greatest living novelists speak to literary critic Chris Power about their new books. Booker Prize-winner John Banville’s The Lock-Up is the latest novel in his Stafford and Quirke historical crime series, and sees the pair investigate their most puzzling case yet, that of a woman discovered dead in an apparent suicide in a lock-up garage in Dublin. Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Ford’s Be Mine sees him return to the character of Frank Bascombe, now in the twilight of life and finding himself a carer to his son Paul, who has ALS. In Bascombe’s story is a profound, funny, poignant love letter to our beleaguered world.