King’s Lynn Fiction Festival: March 13-15

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In “Dance to the Music of time”, Anthony Powell’s fictional novelist X.Trapnell says: “Biography and Memoirs can never be wholly true, since they can’t include every conceivable circumstance. The novel can do that. The novelist himself lays it down . His decision is binding.”

Lynn has the only Fiction Festival in the country (possibly in the world).

Lynn has the only Fiction Festival in the country (possibly in the world).

What makes it different from the other Literature Festivals that have sprung up over the country is that the writers are encouraged to stay for the whole weekend.

This means that they can appear not only in their own public reading/interview , but in other festival events which may include discussions and appearances at local schools.

This gives the audience the opportunity of getting to know more about them , and the writers the opportunity to find out more about each other .

There was a preponderance of women writers this year.

The 27th annual festival started on Friday evening at the Town Hall with a newcomer to the event, Lynn Shepherd, who recently published her fourth novel in the States.

She writes what she calls “Literary thrillers”, and thrillers they are. “A treacherous likeness” reconstructs events in the notorious lives of the poet Shelley and his wife Mary Woolstencroft, and Lord Byron.

She was joined by the celebrated Sri Lankan novelist Romesh Gunesekera whose books have been shortlisted for the Booker prize ,and have received numerous awards.

Best selling Norwich-based writer Rachel Hore read from her new book “A week in Paris”, and mentioned the hardships of having to visit Paris to carry out research. The audience looked thoughtful.

Teresa Waugh had placed her latest novel in an idyllic corner of France and had found it necessary to travel extensively in the country. By this point the audience looked wistful.

She also spoke of her father in law, Evelyn Waugh who died in 1966, and said everyone always expected her to say what a monster he had been.

On the contrary, she said, he had always been very nice to her and she had nothing but happy memories of him.

The star of the weekend was an unknown black American writer LaShonda Katrice Barnett, who was making her first visit to this country to take part in the festival.

Her first novel “Jam on the Vine” was published last month in the States , but not here yet.

The book deals with the struggles of a black woman journalist trying to make her way in the Southern States in the early years of the last century, only 35 years after the emancipation of slaves.

The book has already received awards in the States. wand here the bookstall had managed to obtain 15 copies from her American publisher, which sold quickly.

Although concentrating on fiction, the team of writers included two very distinguished biographers ,Michael Holroyd and Norfolk-based Ann Thwaite who read from “Running in the corridors “ , her new collection of short stories.

Holroyd recounted how an interviewer had confused him with the writer Peter Ackroyd. “I would like to receive his royalties,” he told the inadequately embarrassed interviewer.

This time he was interviewed by the brilliant and tireless Norwich based writer D J Taylor who knew exactly who he was , and also read one of his own short stories.

On Sunday Christopher Bigsby from U E A interviewed Louise Doughty and Jill Dawson who are both writing at their best and producing outstanding work .

Doughty told the audience how two novels she wrote based on her Romany forebears’ appalling experiences in Eastern Europe in the first half of the 20th Century had caused embarrassment and distress to the older members of the family.

Dawson, who lives near Ely, spoke of the beauty of The Fens and about her research in the islands of the South Pacific for her novel “The Great Lover” based on incidents in the life of the poet Rupert Brooke. It’s tough being a novelist!

The festival included two lively discussion events, one on The Novel as history , and the other on Censorship.

As ever these sessions were stimulating and full of ideas and fascinating comment from the brilliant team of writers.

The experience was enjoyed by both audience and writers.