In Pat barkerIn the latest novel from, The Silence of the Girls, there is a scene in which a Trojan princess strokes the back of another 12-year-old captive girl, trying to reassure her that “marriage” – sexual slavery, in particular. done – with one of the Greek conquerors will not be so bad when she finds out that the reality will be appalling.
“Today in Afghanistan,” Barker told the Saturday Book Festival, “there must be mothers who also stroke their daughters’ backs and say the same things. It always happens.
Her new book, The Women of Troy, deals with the consequences of war: we went from Homer to Euripides. But at least in Barker’s recounting of these stories, women are center stage and no longer silenced.
Her next novel, she revealed, will star Cassandra, whose ability to predict the future is ruined by Apollo’s curse that she will never be believed. Barker imagined her as bipolar. There will be a fourth Trojan novel after that, because “I’m so sick of being the woman who writes trilogies.”
There is a certain feminist rewrite in Maggie O’Farrellthe acclaimed Hamnet novel too. Originally, she had thought it would be ghosts, sons and fathers (in this case, some anonymous playwright from Stratford-upon-Avon). Then she was outraged at the ease with which Agnes (aka Ann Hathaway) and her son had been erased from history and it changed her direction.
O’Farrell was just as engaging and eloquent as one would expect, but Nicola Morgan’s questions about the long-term effects of encephalitis (“the hinge my childhood hung on”) brought out how hard his success has been. : The two years of absence from school and having to relearn everything from walking to holding a pen were just the beginning. A portrait of the artist more complete than that which one often obtains from a quick trip around the last book, and so much the better.
Finally, let’s hope the computers lie. Because according to mine, yesterday afternoon’s event with the famous American novelist Marilynne robinson was watched until the end by only 12 people. Well over 100 people logged in initially, but a seven-minute technical delay in the streaming could have explained the drop.
If so, they missed an interview masterclass, in which the thoughtfulness and depth of James Runcie’s questions were answered in the wisdom and lucidity of Robinson’s answers.
Again, this wasn’t just a trot around the plot of her new novel, but a point about what made her write in the first place, why she chose to write a quartet of novels – soon, she hinted, to be a quintet – about two Iowa clergymen and their sometimes lavish offspring, and how she tries to keep her characters as elusive as even loved ones can be.
I would say more about this interview, which also touched on idealism, empathy, history, faith, American politics (yes, even Afghanistan). But do yourself a favor and watch it through the Book Festival website.
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