Continuing with news of the line up for the dovegreyreader tent at this year's Port Eliot Festival, we have been able to schedule in four events based on books about women's lives, all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed reading, and three of which have already written about on here (stand by for news of the fourth in the next post on Friday) all by authors I now can't wait to talk with...
Her Brilliant Career, the book about ten women of the 1950s which I enjoyed so much and wrote about on here, and I am delighted that Rachel will be coming to the tent to talk about those lives which proved so enlightening to me and to many about the era in which we grew up and now available in paperback.
Of the cohort of notable women featured in Her Brilliant Career, eventually selected from a cast of many who all popped their heads up once Rachel Cooke started looking for them, I had heard of a few but knew very little about any of them...
Patience Gray, Nancy Spain, Joan Werner-Laurie, Sheila van Damm, Alison Smithson, Margery Fish, Muriel and Betty Box, Jacquetta Hawkes and Rose Heilbron.
Chefs, racing car drivers, architects, film directors, archaeologists, barristers all swimming against the tide of convention and assumption to achieve...
I can see we are going to have much to talk about.
Helen needs no introduction here, I am delighted that she will be bringing Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, Four Sisters to the tent and I expect a wonderful event. The conversation should flow and we can all give these young women a breath of festival air (they would have loved it all) and expound our pet theories on Alexandra's debilitating health issues, you may remember mine...
'Girl upon girl born to a couple who had to produce a son, but that is giving birth to nigh on 52lb of baby in less than ten years, often with difficulty and all at the end of the nineteenth century when... well I will leave it to your imagination. Helen Rappaport is a historian, thus speculation is not the done thing, but I can speculate wildly, and I would hazard a guess that Alexandra was left with some fairly traumatic physical sequalae to all that....maybe even sufficient to limit her lifestyle, who can know.'
As the book is read by an increasingly wider audience around the world even more theories are coming to light so it all promises some great discussion. News of the documentary, not yet screened, is that the BBC don't want it so disappear amongst the summer sporting schedule (World Cup anyone...*sigh* ) so it is now set for the autumn.
It is almost two years since I met Hannah Rothschild very briefly at the last Port Eliot Festival before heading home to read The Baroness, Hannah's book about the search for her rebellious ancestor Nica, and another book now available in paperback.
Hearing 'Round Midnight' played by Thelonious Monk, Nica abandoned her marriage, her children and her home and headed to New York to find Monk, eventually caring for him until his death in 1982. In Nica's own words...
'I'd never heard anything remotely like it. I must have played it twenty times in a row. Missed my plane. In fact I never went home. I got the message I belonged where that music was. I was supposed to be involved in some way
A sign of a great book is always that much of the detail is still incredibly vivid in my mind, so yet another event that I am really looking forward to...here's a snippet of my thoughts at the time...
And so to Nica, the wonderful, free-spirited rebellious Nica and with a tension built up by Hannah Rothschild as the fate of the women within this patriarchally dominant family is gradually revealed, and to the point where I would have been seriously disappointed if Nica hadn't done a runner, because in the end I was willing her to escape. Suffering a form of de-oxygenated entrapment from real life, and of the highest order, Nica was never cut out for the rarifed atmosphere in which she found herself, something had to give.
It was the Second World War that did it. Nica's life until that one of dependence and moneyed privilege, pampered to the point of infantilism within a rule-bound, class-obsessed society, but with the war came Nica's chance. She took it and capitalised on it, dutifully travelling to the U.S. for the safety of herself and her children, as instructed by her French husband Jules, but then leaving to return to Europe to join the Free French Army. Nica had a busy and exciting war and as I read of her exploits it became obvious that she would never settle back into life as Rothschild woman... there to 'entertain, inform and breed.'
So how lucky is that; three books that I have invested a huge amount of pleasurable reading and writing time with, and now I am going to be able to chat with the authors on the sofa while the sun shines (it WILL) and Bookhound and the Weatherman make six hundred cups of tea, and everyone sits around on the grass knitting and listening and joining in with questions.
And of course full reports and pictures for all of you festivalling away at home.
Now jazz might not be your thing but here's the music that captured Nica's heart and soul so completely, and maybe we'll have it playing softly in the background before Hannah's event..