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The Hay Literary Festival 29th May : An interesting Bank Holiday Monday Morning

posted on 31 May 2017

An interesting Bank Holiday Monday Morning

I was thrilled to discover that the award winning YA author Meg Rosoff was appearing at the Hay Literary Festival this year as I have just finished reading Beck, her wonderful collaboration with Mal Peet. She was interviewed by the author and editor Daniel Hahn and it was clear from the start that this was going to be a great relaxed conversation between two friends. This is an interview formula that usually works at literary festivals (with a few exceptions that I won’t mention here) because an interviewer being in good tune with an author means that the audience also feels comfortable and intimate. I think that this was particularly important in this case because they were discussing how Rosoff had worked to complete the book that Peet had been unable to finish due to his terminal cancer. What really worked for me was the welcome inclusion of two audio extracts taken from a previous Hay interview between Hahn and Peet. Hearing his voice threaded into the conversation was a poignant experience for everyone and brought him rightly into the spotlight. He sounded full of personality, mischief energy and black humour and I could imagine the strength of the comradely relationship he had with both Rosoff and Hahn.  This was one of those events that was over all too quickly but it was great to be able to chat with this charismatic author as she signed books afterwards.

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 It was a bit of a scramble to get to the next event on our schedule which was very different but equally interesting.  This was to see Keggie Carew, author of the Costa biography award Dadland which is a fascinating mix of history and personal memoir about her unconventional father as he descends into the strange landscape of dementia .  She was interviewed by Philippe Sands, a Professor of Law and author of ‘East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity’, an interviewer who seemed to steer Carew in a somewhat lawyerly style mostly in the direction of common ground . So he seemed especially fascinated by the mountains of records that she unearthed and pieced together about her father’s impressive war records. This is a very important dimension of the book and I would guess from the apparent profile of the audience that included some elderly military looking types this might have been of great interest. When I read the book, I must confess that for personal reasons, I was more interested in the family dynamics and the effects of her fathers’ dementia. She also had so many funny anecdotes to tell and I think that she would have liked more opportunities to focus on these if she had been interviewed by someone else. As it was, Sands was inclined to interrupt and refocus the content of the discussion which I found quite irritating. It just goes to show how important it is to be allocated the right person, as had happened with Meg Rosoff. Despite this, Carew came across as a strong personality who had achieved the publication of this unusual and compelling book through dogged determination over several years. She also was very personable and pleased to talk as she signed afterwards.

  

Karen Argent

May 2017