Miriam Darlington & William Atkins  10.30am


In 2009, Miriam Darlington gained funding to complete a book on otters in conjunction with a PhD at Exeter University.   Over the course of a year, Miriam Darlington travelled around Britain in search of wild otters; from her home in Devon to the wilds of Scotland; to Cumbria, Wales, Northumberland, Cornwall, Somerset and the River Lea; to her childhood home near the Ouse, the source of her watery obsession. ‘Otter Country’ follows Darlington's search through different landscapes, seasons, weather and light, as she tracks one of Britain's most elusive animals.

 

Miriam Darlington was born and brought up in Lewes, Sussex. A prize- winning poet, she taught French and English for twelve years, before becoming a full-time writer in 2007. Her poetry collection Windfall was published in 2008. She has also written a book for young children ‘Footprints in the Sand,’ an ecological tale about rivers.  She lives in Devon with two children, one dog, two cats, four chickens and one husband.

About Otter Country

During her journey, Miriam Darlington meets otter experts, representatives of the Environment Agency, conservationists, ecologists, walkers, Henry Williamson's family, Gavin Maxwell's heir; zoo keepers, fishermen, scientists, hunters and poets. Above all she learns how to track and be around otters, and that the stillness required to actually see this shy animal can bring many unasked-for wonders.

Written in mesmerising prose, ‘Otter Country’ establishes Darlington as a prominent voice in the new generation of British nature writers.

 

“Every bit as captivating as its subject, this is a book that, in the best way, leaves you longing for more.” Telegraph

 

“Nature writing that is comic as well as passionate.” Guardian

 

‘Beautifully produced... a worthy successor to ‘Tarka’ and Ring of Bright Water Daily Mail

Will Atkins grew up in rural Hampshire and first became interested in moors in nearby Bishops Waltham.   After studying art history, he went on to work in publishing, where he edited prize-winning fiction. He now works as a freelance editor, and studies and writes about Britain’s marginal landscapes. He lives in north London.

In The Moor he travels across the moors of England from Cornwall to the Borders, discovering how they have shaped our people, culture and industry.  His journey takes him across the threshold between countryside and town, ancient and modern, public and private, cultivated and the wild – and, above all, along the faultline between the two great forces that have forged modern Britain: our rural heritage and the Industrial Revolution. 

The Moor is an account of a deeply personal journey across into this distinctive and sometimes terrifying landscape. William Atkins takes the reader from south to north, in search of the heart of this elusive landscape. His account is both travelogue and natural history, and an exploration of moorland’s uniquely captivating position in our literature, history and psyche.

Atkins may be a solitary wanderer across these vast expanses, but his journey is full of encounters, busy with the voices of the moors, past and present – gamekeepers and ramblers, shepherds and huntsmen, miners and archaeologists, publicans and priests, meteorologists and dry stone wallers, developers and environmentalists. As he travels, he shows us that the fierce landscapes we associate with Wuthering Heights and The Hound of the Baskervilles are far from being untouched wildernesses. Daunting and defiant, the moors echo with tales of a country and the people who live in it – a mighty, age-old landscape standing steadfast against the passage of time.

 ‘Exquisite, visceral, and perpetually surprising … an extraordinary new portrait of these mythic blasted heaths.’ Philip Hoare

 ‘In William Atkins the moors have found their voice. Beautifully and darkly, with great learning and exquisite observation, the odd wet backbone of England from Cornwall to the Borders is made new.’  Tim Dee



Robyn Young & Antonia Hodgson        11.30am

credit Sarah Bird

Robyn Young is the author of the million-copy bestselling ‘Brethren’ trilogy.

The inspiration for Robyn's new historical trilogy, which began with ‘Insurrection’ and continues in ‘Renegade’ and nowKingdom’, grew out of an earlier research trip to Scotland where the story of Robert the Bruce captured her imagination and carried her into a story of bitter family feuds, two civil wars and the struggle for the crown.

Robyn was born in Oxford and grew up in the Midlands and Devon. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Sussex and lives and writes in Brighton full-time.

“An outstanding contemporary writer” — Kate Mosse on Robyn Young

 

“It is not by luck or accident that Robyn Young has become one of the most successful and respected historical fiction authors writing today.”  — Giles Kristian, author of the Raven series

 

To find out more about Robyn Young and her historical novels, visit her website at www.robynyoung.com and her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RobynYoungAuthor.  Follow her on Twitter @RobynYoung36

About Kingdom

On the 700th anniversary of a pivotal event in Scottish history, ‘Kingdom’ marks the conclusion of Robyn Young’s epic trilogy about Robert the Bruce, one of history’s greatest rebels.

Robert has achieved his great ambition to be crowned King of Scotland, but in so doing has provoked the wrath of Edward of England. Raising the feared dragon banner, the English king marches north, determined to recapture the kingdom.

But the English are not Robert's only enemies. By murdering his great rival, John Comyn, he has split the kingdom apart and with his forces depleted and many of his own countrymen turned against him, Robert is forced to flee into the wilderness. He has a crown, but no country, the will to lead, but no real authority.

The road before him is all but impossible, with treachery and heartbreak at every turn, but Robert must try slowly, surely, to regain the military advantage and the respect of a nation.

Fighting from hidden strongholds and the Western Isles, with the support of a few brave men and the alluring noblewoman, Christiana, Robert drives towards the place where he will meet Edward II and decide the future of Scotland, in an epic confrontation near the village of Bannockburn. 

“A gripping new historical novel . . . an epic tale of greed, intrigue and war, set against a wild landscape.” — The Lady

 

“The best historical fiction doesn't just recreate the past, it speaks to the present. Robyn Young has the knack of finding subjects that resonate.” — The Big Issue

 

“Immaculately researched and carefully written, evoking a very particular - and largely unexplored - time and place. The fights are sensational.” — Daily Telegraph

“It is so graphic you can immediately put yourself there, imagining the faces and the clash of weapons. It also elaborates on the historical context and fleshes out the characters. It draws you in and is a compelling novel you cannot put down. So much research must have gone into the book; the detail is incredible. I enjoyed it so much.” — The BBC Radio 2 Simon Mayo Book Club


Antonia Hodgson

Set in 1727 in Georgian London, Antonia Hodgson’s debut novel takes the reader into the dark and dangerous world of the notorious Marshalsea Prison. 

A twisting mystery, a dazzling evocation of early 18th Century London, ‘The Devil in the Marshalsea’ is a thrilling debut novel full of intrigue and suspense.

Antonia Hodgson was born and grew up in Derby. She studied English at the University of Leeds. ‘The Devil in the Marshalsea’ is her debut novel. She lives in London.

About The Devil in the Marshalsea

A murderer on the loose . . . in prison.

London, 1727 - and Tom Hawkins is about to fall from his heaven of card games, brothels and coffee-houses into the hell of a debtors' prison.

The Marshalsea is a savage world of its own, with simple rules: those with family or friends who can lend them a little money may survive in relative comfort. Those with none will starve in squalor and disease. And those who try to escape will suffer a gruesome fate at the hands of the gaol's rutheless governor and his cronies.

The trouble is, Tom Hawkins has never been good at following rules - even simple ones. And the recent grisly murder of a debtor, Captain Roberts, has brought further terror to the gaol. While the Captain's beautiful widow cries for justice, the finger of suspicion points only one way: to the sly, enigmatic figure of Samuel Fleet.

Some call Fleet a devil, a man to avoid at all costs. But Tom Hawkins is sharing his cell. Soon, Tom's choice is clear: get to the truth of the murder - or be the next to die.

 

“Historical fiction just doesn’t get any better than this.  The Devil in the Marshalsea offers up a riveting, fast-paced story, a richness of tone and a depth of detail that would put most academics to shame.  Magnificent!” Jeffery Deaver.

“A super debut, tense and atmospheric, that beautifully evokes the dark underbelly of 18th Century London.  I was gripped.” Saul David.

 “A perfectly realised scary and exciting world; this is a book to lose yourself in.” Jenny Colgan

“A book to be read by candlelight: part romance, part social history...and a lesson in evil.” John Taylor (Duran Duran)



Kate Lord Brown & Judith Kinghorn  12.45pm

 Kate grew up in the wild and beautiful Devon countryside, and lived in the Meon Valley before relocating to the Middle East with her family. After studying philosophy at Durham University and art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, she worked as an international art consultant. Her debut novel The Beauty Chorus was inspired by the many hours she spent on airfields in the UK with her pilot husband, and the experiences of pilots in her family during WW2. Her second novel about the Spanish Civil War, The Perfume Garden, draws upon the years she lived in Spain, and has been published in seven languages.  The Perfume Garden was shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year in 2014.

About The Perfume Garden

High in the hills of Valencia, a forgotten house guards its secrets. Untouched since Franco's forces tore through Spain in 1936, the whitewashed walls have crumbled, the garden, laden with orange blossom, grown wild. Emma Temple is the first to unlock its doors in seventy years. Guided by a series of letters and a key bequeathed in her mother's will, she has left her job as London's leading perfumier to restore this dilapidated villa to its former glory. It is the perfect retreat: a wilderness redolent with strange and exotic scents, heavy with the colours and sounds of a foreign time. But for her grandmother, Freya, a British nurse who stayed here during Spain's devastating civil war, Emma's new home evokes terrible memories. As the house begins to give up its secrets, Emma is drawn deeper into Freya's story: one of crushed idealism, lost love, and families ripped apart by war. She soon realises it is one thing letting go of the past, but another when it won't let go of you.

Review of The Beauty Chorus ‘The research is played light, and as a result the book soars as if it has a pair of Merlin engines strapped to its covers’. The Spectator

 and of The Perfume Garden ‘The novel is beautifully constructed, with the characters’ individual experiences gradually weaving together, and the events of the past unfolding to reveal aftershocks in Emma’s present.  History fans will delight in cameos from figures including Hemingway, Dr. Bethune and Robert Capa.  Brown’s pacing is exquisite, revealing each twist slowly and deliberately, leaving you gripped to the end’ The Bookseller

Judith Kinghorn 

Judith Kinghorn was born in Northumberland, England. She is a graduate in English and History of Art, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and nominated a Woman of the Year before giving up her career in London to move with her family to Hampshire and focus on her writing.  Judith's début novel The Last Summer and her second novel The Memory of Lost Senses are published worldwide and have been translated into German, Italian, Spanish and French. Her novels are set on the Hampshire-Sussex borders, drawing upon her knowledge of local history and love of the landscape. Judith's third novel The Snow Globe will be published in 2015.


About The Memory of Lost Senses

In the Edwardian summer of 1911, the mysterious Countess Cora has returned to a large deserted house in a nearby village from the Continent in order to be with her grandson, Jack. She is accompanied by her friend Sylvia, a novelist who plans to write Cora’s memoirs. Young Cecily Chadwick is intrigued by the remarkable accounts of the Countess’ life and becomes increasingly fascinated by her and drawn more closely to Jack.  Together they soon find there is more mystery in the Countess’ past than she cares to reveal.

Review of The Last Summer

‘Impeccably written and well researched this is an atmospheric and haunting read… the perfect balance of romance and grit by a great new writer. Don’t miss it!’  Deborah Swift

‘The year is 1914 and love and war are about to transform privileged 16 year-old Clarissa’s charmed existence forever. This sumptuous romance is made for fans of Downton.  The Lady Magazine

and of The Memory of Lost Senses

'Judith Kinghorn's exquisite new novel [is] a sensual and visual feast of a story... a mesmerising book of finely wrought words... Beautifully descriptive, intriguing and full of emotion-packed, slow-motion snapshots... Thoughtful, delicately crafted and imaginative, The Memory of Lost Senses is a page-turning, atmospheric mystery story but with a powerful, all-consuming love affair burning deep at its core to direct the action ... and steal our hearts' (Lancashire Evening Post)

‘An evocative tale about the power of memory…rather than unfolding in chronological order, the narrative moves back and forth in time and is told from multiple viewpoints. The truth of Cora’s life is revealed only in bits and pieces, and the reader is never sure which of her memories are facts and which are fiction, thus ensuring the reader remains fully engaged in the story until the very end. Kinghorn’s prose is lovely, lavishly describing both the characters and the setting, which leaves the reader with a strong sense of time and place. The characters themselves are engaging and well-developed.Fans of the Kinghorn’s remarkable debut novel, The Last Summer, will surely be pleased with this second effort. For readers yet to discover Kinghorn’s novels, this book is sure to create a whole new legion of fans’.  The Historical Novel Society


Rachel Cooke 3pm

credit Charlie Hopkinson

Born in Sheffield , Rachel Cooke began her career as a reporter on The Sunday Times.  She now writes for The Observer and is television critic for the New Statesman.  In 2006, she was named Interviewer of the Year at the British Press Awards and Feature Writer of the Year at the What the Papers Say Awards.

About Her Brilliant Career

Rachel’s idea for this book came with the purchase of a ‘timelessly modern’ Ercol sideboard on eBay.  It led her to examine the experiences of women in the Fifties who, with the opportunities provided by the Second World War, became pioneering career women.  Her observations correct the misconception of womanhood in this decade from docile, old fashioned and homely to courageous and determined.

Muriel Box, film director; Betty Box, film producer; Margery Fish, plantswoman; Patience Gray, cook; Alison Smithson, architect; Sheila van Damm, rally car driver and theatre owner; Nancy Spain, journalist and radio personality; Joan Werner Laurie, editor; Jacquetta Hawkes, archaeologist; and Rose Heilbron, QC; all made their mark, paving the way for future generations.

"Rachel Cooke shines a new light in an elegantly original way into the 1950s and especially into the role of women therein. By cleverly focussing on the lives of several extraordinary women, she manages to produce a social history which is highly absorbing and richly informative. A very enjoyable and distinctive book" — Kate Atkinson

"There is warmth and lightness of spirit to this book: it is witty, intelligent, kind and poignant. Cooke exudes love and knowledge of people, gardens, food, art . . . she leaves you wanting more" — The Times

"Vastly entertaining, cannily researched and sharply perceptive" — Telegraph

"Wonderfully evocative . . . Cooke's writing sparkles; it is fresh and original and has great insight" — Literary Review


Slightly Foxed Tea 


with Ysenda Maxtone Graham 4pm


Slightly Foxed started life as a quarterly magazine for book lovers in 2004.  Ten years later, the magazine is thriving and Slightly Foxed has grown to be a well-loved independent publisher of hand crafted limited-edition books with its own second-hand bookshop in London. At this teatime event, Slightly Foxed Editors, Gail Pirkis and Hazel Wood, will be introducing the author of The Real Mrs MiniverYsenda Maxtone Graham. Join us in welcoming them to book-loving West Meon.

The Real Mrs Miniver

The film Mrs Miniver, starring Greer Garson, was a wartime classic.  It took America by storm and won five Oscars.  In 1942 even isolationist Americans were stunned.  Winston Churchill said Mrs Miniver would do more for the Allied cause than a flotilla of battleships.  Like a latter day Bridget Jones, Mrs Miniver, featured in The Times, had become a national institution.  Everyone assumed that Jan Struther, the creator of Mrs Miniver was the model for the exemplary middle-class housewife, but as this vivid biography reveals, the reality was very different.  Ysenda Maxtone Graham, Joyce’s granddaughter, draws a deeply understanding but unsentimental portrait of this contradictory woman, whose own creation ultimately forced her to lead a painful double life. It’s a poignant, moving story laced with humour and sharp observation.

 ‘This is a perfect biography, an utterly marvellous book.’  Valerie Grove

‘A crystalline work of art… a compelling story, tragic but at the same time mysteriously joyful’  A.N. Wilson

 Ysenda Maxtone Graham is the granddaughter of Jan Struther and brings to this book an understanding available only to one so close.  She writes for a number of newspapers and magazines and is the author of The Church Hesitant, Mr Tibbits’s Catholic School and An Insomniac’s Guide to the Small Hours. She lives in London.


Film: Mrs Miniver

This is an American wartime classic film of 1942 directed by William Wyler, and starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.   It is based on the 1940 novel Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther and the film shows how the life of an unassuming British housewife in rural England is touched by World War II. She sees her eldest son go to war, finds herself confronting a German pilot who has parachuted into her idyllic village while her husband is participating in the Dunkirk evacuation, and loses her daughter-in-law as a casualty It includes Spitfire flying sequences filmed in 1941.



An enormous success at the time, Mrs Miniver won six Academy Awards, including Best PictureBest Director (William Wyler), Best Actress (Greer Garson) and Best Supporting Actress (Teresa Wright).   In 2006, the film was ranked number 40 on the American Film Institute's list celebrating the most inspirational films of all time. In 2009, the film was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant and will be preserved for all time. 

Duration 134 minutes – free event