Images above: Books by Dame Eileen Atkins, Chris Patten and Justin Webb
Will She Do? Act One of a Life on the Stage
One of the grande dames of British theatre, Dame Eileen Atkins, heads the line-up for the Chiswick Book Festival this year. The actress and occasional screenwriter who lives at Strand on the Green is a BAFTA and Emmy award winner and a three-time Olivier award winner.
Her memoir Will She Do? Act One of a Life on the Stage is the story of a girl from a council estate in Tottenham, born in 1934 to an electric-meter reader and a seamstress, who was determined to be an actress.
‘Candid and witty, this memoir takes her from her awkward performances in working-men’s clubs at six years of age as dancing ‘Baby Eileen’, through the war years in London, to her breakthrough at thirty-two on Broadway with The Killing of Sister George, for which she received the first of four Tony Award nominations.’
She co-created Upstairs, Downstairs and wrote the screenplay for Mrs Dalloway (for which she won an Evening Standard Award) and at the age of eighty-six, this is her first autobiographical work.
Images above: Books by Ronnie Archer-Morgan, Jeremy Bowen and Revd Richard Coles
Many of the authors at the festival this year are connected in one way or another to the BBC. Director of the Chiswick Book Festival Torin Douglas says:
“As a former BBC correspondent I am delighted to announce that this year’s festival will celebrate the Corporation’s centenary with a range of BBC authors.”
The list includes Ronnie Archer-Morgan of Antiques Roadshow, The Revd Richard Coles of Radio 4’s Saturday Live, the BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen, former chairman Chris Patten and Today programme presenter Justin Webb talking to Jane Garvey about his book The Gift of Radio.
As you might expect from a former news correspondent, Torin always puts together a schedule with author programme director Jo James which is strong in the current affairs department.
Chris Patten will be talking about his time as the last British governor of Hong Kong, negotiating the handover to China in 1997. The Hong Kong Diaries describes in detail how Hong Kong was run as a British colony and what happened as the handover approached. The book gives ‘unprecedented insights into negotiating with the Chinese.’
He describes how it came as a surprise to him that some British businessmen were more concerned with not upsetting the Chinese than they were about safeguarding the institutions of democracy.
The book concludes with an account of what has happened in Hong Kong since the handover, ‘a powerful assessment of recent events and Patten’s reflections on how to deal with China – then and now.’
Jeremy Bowen’s book The Making of the Modern Middle East takes us on a journey across the Middle East and through its history.
‘He meets ordinary men and women on the front line, their leaders, whether brutal or benign, and he explores the power games that have so often wreaked devastation on civilian populations as those leaders, whatever their motives, jostle for political, religious and economic control.’
Images above: Books by Nick Higham, Mihir Bose and Alex Gerlis
Politics, current affairs, sport, fiction …
Nick Higham, formerly the BBC’s media correspondent, has written a book about the struggle throughout history to provide cities with clean water. His book The Mercenary River is a tale of ‘remarkable technological, scientific and organisational breakthroughs; but also a story of greed and complacency, high finance and low politics.’
Mihir Bose, formerly the BBC’s sports news editor, has written on race and sport. Mihir now hosts a podcast on The Chiswick Calendar Three Old Hacks, with friends David Smith, Economics Editor of the Sunday Times and Nigel Dudley, political analyst.
You can read a review of his book Dreaming the impossible: The battle to create a non-racial sports world and an interview with him here.
Historian Robert Seatter will discuss the BBC’s remarkable past and its uncertain future with Will Wyatt, former CEO of BBC Broadcast.
The book festival programme is broad-ranging, bringing together top authors and their readers for a week of history, poetry, biography, fiction, thrillers and writing about food, wine and gardening.
Alex Gerlis (another ex BBC journalist) will be talking about his new thriller Agent in Peril, while novelists Adele Parks and Sadie Jones will be talking about their latest books.
Images above: Books by Adele Parks, Sadie Jones and Greg James and Chris Smith
‘Best beach read of summer 2022’
Adele Parks’ book One Last Secret is being promoted as the ‘best beach read of summer 2022’ from the Sunday Times number one bestselling author of Both of You.
‘A week at a beautiful chateau in the south of France – it should be a straightforward final job for Dora. She’s a smart, stunning and discreet escort and Daniel has paid for her services before. This time, all she has to do is convince the assembled guests that she is his girlfriend. Dora is used to playing roles and being whatever men want her to be. It’s all about putting on a front.
‘It will be a last, luxurious look at how the other half lives, before Dora turns her back on the escort world and all its dangers. She has found someone she loves and trusts. With him, she can escape the life she’s trapped in. But when Dora arrives at the chateau, it quickly becomes obvious that nothing is what it seems…
Sadie Jones’ book Amy and Lan is described as ‘Fabulous: vivid and funny, sometimes heart-rendingly sad’ by the Guardian. The story is about two girls ‘having the best childhood’, growing up on a West Country farm with parents who are best friends also, originally from the city.
‘Jones’s evocation of childhood is spot-on: its fierce passions, disaffections, loyalties and suffering’ says the Financial Times.
As always there is something for children. Radio 1 breakfast presenter and children’s author Greg James will lead a storytelling session with Chris Smith.
Chiswick Book Festival will take place from Wednesday 7 – Wednesday 14 September. Tickets go on sale Tuesday 26 July. Early Bird tickets available now for Waterstones Local Authors Party, Wednesday 7 September, Dame Eileen Atkins, Thursday 8 September and Prizegiving for the Young People’s Poetry Competition, Friday 9 September.
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