A Day at Edinburgh International Book Festival (Day 2 of 2) @edbookfest

I was hoping to have this posted earlier but work and new job preparations have rather disrupted my plans. However, better late than never! I had a packed day 2 at the festival, I planned on going to four events but unfortunately had to leave before my final event, Matt Haig, because I wasn’t feeling well. I’m still upset I couldn’t stay for that event. Having said that the rest of the day was amazing, I learned some history, got my brain stretched and listened to some poetry so for more information on these, read on……..

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My first event was Susie Orbach who talked about her work and her latest book and explained how they had been able to write the book without impacting on client confidentiality.  The book was originally broadcast on radio 4 so people may already be familiar with it but even if you are it sounds like there is a lot to be learned in the reading, and possible re-reading of the book. They set up fake clients with fake, but genuine issues such as failed IVF treatements, impending retirement, etc and then the fake clients had a session with Susie. This is the closest you’ll get to understanding how counselling works eithout actually experiencing it yourself. There were a few people in the audience in a similar line of work who asked questions about how Susie manages her own mental health if she has had a particularly difficult or upsetting client and the state of mental health services for young people at the moment. 

Having volunteered in mental health myself for a few years I understood the issues that were raised but it was interesting to get someone else’s perspective on them. It was an enlightening discussion and a good way to start the day.

My next event was Alison Weir, who I’d not heard of prior to this but who writes historical fiction and is, herself, a historian. She’s currently writing a series of fiction books about the six queens and wives of Henry the Eighth and the book currently out is about Jane Seymour, wife number three. This talk was spellbinding, Alison showed us pictures of the main charaters and talked us through the life of Jane Seymour from when she came to court to when she died, punctuated with a few readings from her book. It was alive with colour and character and the audience appeared captivated, as was I. I knew little of Jane Seymour before this event but as I enjoy historical fiction I thought it would be interesting and I was not disappointed. If history classes in school had been like this I would have learned so much more than I did. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction should try these books and if you ever have the chance to see Alison Weir at an event talking about her work, go, you won’t regret it!

My last event of the day, and the only one I could get a picture of due to the lighting and my camera not being good in dark conditions, was New Passages: Scotland and India. It wasn’t what I exeptect at all but was fascinating and informative. An Lanntair, on Stornoway held Purvai, a celebration of South Asian arts and culture. It might seem an odd connection but as it turns out the first Surveyor General of India was Colin Mackenzie, from Stornoway. With this connection between Scotland and India and the 70th anniversary of Indian independence, Abir Mukherjee, Nalini Paul, Sandip Roy and Sampurna Chattarji studied items from the collection that Mackenzie created while in India and then created works of poetry or fiction from what they learned about Mackenzie and from the items they studied. This event was the culmination of a year of work which also included a visit to the Kolkata book festival earlier this year. At Edinburgh they read the works they had created from this year long exploration and discussed the experiences they have had on this journey. It was a very interesting event which was rich in colour and informative. The works that have been created from this project were all quite different and diverse. There was poetry as well as short stories and it was a lovely and educational way to spend an hour. 

This year was the first I have been to the book festival in approximately 10 years and it lived up to my expectations. Although it’s a busy festival it’s also peaceful and calm. The loudest noises are of people talking and when they are likely be talking about books, that’s not really noise at all. The covered walkways were ideal for when it rained, which it did a lot, my only criticism regarding those would be that they didn’t cover enough of the seating areas or access to toilets meaning some people couldn’t sit in dry areas or would get wet on the dash from the covered area to the toilets themselves so maybe a bit more covering is required for future years. Considering the small space in which the festival is held (not withstanding the expansion into George Street) there is a lot in the space but it doesn’t feel cramped which is a testament to whoever designed the layout. It’s a lovely experience to go to a festival that is in the city centre and fairly easy to access regardless of how you travel there. I don’t yet know what my plans for next year are but I hope they will involve at least one day back here.  

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A Day at Edinburgh International Book Festival (Day 1 of 2). @edbookfest @Lin_Anderson @antti_tuomainen @russeldMcLean @FrankRGardner @StuartMacBride @thestephmerritt @OrendaBooks

So today I went to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, as you can tell from the above picture I took the train, which gave me some time to enjoy the gorgeous Scottish countryside and get some reading done. I had a packed day (well afternoon and evening!) and had coincidentally booked the same events as the lovely Louise from The Scotsman who I bumped into not long after arriving. This meant that I was able t spend the day with someone I knew, as we had met previously at a book launch, and not wander around myself looking like a lost soul!  I had a brilliant time with Louise, it’s been a while since I could properly talk books with someone else, so to do it for a few hours was heaven. 

Anyway, we were kicking off the day with the Lin Anderson and Antti Tuomainen event and happily bumped into Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books, Michael J Malone and the event chair Russel D MacLean before the event started so spent some time talking with them before the event itself. 

There was a good crowd in The Spiegeltent for the event and I don’t think anyone left disappointed. I know I took the picture below when Lin Anderson was being introduced but can’t remember exactly what was being said at this point. However, going by her expression it was definitely amusing which set the scene for the hour to follow.

The event was a mixture of serious parts and humour, beginning with Antti’s observations on how our reality is currently stranger than fiction, Lin’s explanation of sleep paralysis and a discussion of keeping forensic information up to date as technology progresses. Both authors read from their newest works, Sins of the Dead and Palm Beach, Finland (Antti’s book is not out just yet but can be pre-ordered now or if you’re lucky you can buy a copy at the festival, if there are any left!).  The beginning of Sins of the Dead is intriguing, quite different from what I had expected and unusual but also creepy and gripping, I for one was enthralled. In stark contrast the beginning of Palm Beach, Finland had everyone laughing, I ended up in tears because it was so funny, but at the same time it is dark and slightly creepy too. If you want crime fiction that is completely different from your usual read this is definitely worth considering.

After a very brief recovery from a most entertaining hour it was time to immediately join the queue for the next event, Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent, who has written a few books including a new thriller, Ultimatum which is out now. Everyone who regularly watches BBC news will be aware who Frank Gardner is from seeing him on there which is how I knew of him. What I didn’t know, however, was how funny he is. He entertained a huge audience with stories from Cairo, Columbia, Iran and other countries that he has visited. He is clearly very knowledgeable and was able to give a picture of countries, like Iran, which is so different from the one we get from the news and political commentary that exists at the moment. Until I saw the festival programme I had no idea he had written any fiction books (or any books for that matter) but when I saw his name there I was intrigued and, as someone who wants to expand their reading I thought this event would be a good one to add to my crime heavy bundle and I was not disappointed. Predictably the questions at the end of the event turned towards asking him what he thought would happen in various countries, such as Yemen, and he answered them well and in the best way he could. After all, although he has a lot of knowledge and experience, even he can’t predict the future. 

After this it was time for a quick bite to eat before ny last event of the day which was Stuart MacBride, hosted by Stephanie Merritt. I have to say this is the first book event I’ve been to where the author has stood up and sang to the audience, he even made Stephanie Merritt join in too which she did rather well. It was quite different from the other events of the day. There was a lot of discussion of writing, editors, other people’s opinion on crime fiction to highlight just a few. It was most entertaining and I have to say Stephanie Merritt did a fantastic job of managing Stuart MacBride (and yes, I think managing is the right word to use!). I enjoyed myself so much I bought the first book in the Logan McRae series, a series I have been contemplating trying for a while now, and have come home with a new, shiny, signed book to add to ny ever growing to-read pile. 

I’m back at the festival on Friday when I have a packed day seeing Susie Orbach, Alison Weir, New Passages: Scotland and India and Matt Haig.