I have just returned from the Parisot literature festival which is a wondrous, eclectic and bilingual collaboration of a French and English literature showcase in the South of France. The whole village gets involved in hosting the author sessions, the gastronomic delights of lunches and dinners with the authors and the mouthwatering provision of refreshments at the opening reception and with afternoon tea. The energy, creativity and uniqueness of the people I met and those I stayed with, was incredible and meeting like-minded souls who, live in both the UK and France was sheer delight.
I especially enjoyed the sessions by three authors. Jim Powell turned to writing fiction in his early sixties, after an eclectic career that has encompassed being Managing Director of an advertising agency, setting up a pottery business, running election campaigns and standing for parliament. Perhaps writing was always in his blood – he is the great-great-great grandson of the 19th century satirical novelist Thomas Love Peacock, a great friend of Shelley’s. His second novel isTrading Futures, which is set in the financial crisis of 2008 and is narrated by 60 year-old futures trader, Matthew Oxenhay. When Matthew is fired from his job and has a chance encounter with an old flame he hasn’t seen since the sixties, he experiences his own personal crisis, wondering whether he shouldn’t trade in his own future. It is a darkly funny tale, described as “the baby boomers’ lament” (The Times) “a vivid portrait of a man in meltdown” (The Daily Mail), “succinct, sardonic and packed with sparkling one-liners” (WI Life), with a “Reginald Perrin charm about it” (The Sunday Times).
The second event was hosted by Andrew Lownie sharing his work ; 'Stalin's Englishman' which is about Guy Burgess, of the Cambridge spy ring and the book plays out as not only an impeccably researched biography, but also as an in-depth cultural study and a spy thriller of genuine, knuckle-gnawing tension. Andrew’s understanding of the historical background is outstanding.
The other author I really enjoyed was Fiona Barton who has had a successful career in journalism, She gave up her job to volunteer in Sri Lanka and since 2008 she has worked with exiled and threatened journalists all over the world. Through all of this, she says, “a story was cooking in my head.” Her experience covering and reading about notorious criminal cases sparked an interest in the wives of those accused, in what they knew, suspected or allowed themselves to know and this is the focus of her debut novel, The Widow, a tense, psychological thriller about a missing child, Bella. Fiona’s experience as a journalist is evident throughout the book. She offers a detailed exploration of the day-to-day machinations of police investigations as well as a fascinating insight into the interdependent but often tense relationship between the police and the press. Narrated by three key protagonists - the widow of the chief suspect, the detective, and the journalist – it is also a cracking good read, packed full of suspense and surprise, from the first page to the very last.