Voewood: A sparkling weekend of literature
The Voewood Festival, a lovely, louche country house party liberally lubricated with Hendrick’s gin, kicked off on Friday night and continues through the Bank Holiday weekend. Now in its second year, it features and impressive line-up, including Hanif Kureshi, DBC Pierre, Kate Mosse, Giles Coren, Howard Marks, Meg Rosoff, Simon Armitage, Antony Gormley and the legendary Diana Athill.
The Arts and Crafts house near Holt in north Norfolk is an extraordinary mix of Tudor and Spanish colonial, built by E S Prior between 1903–5, and has been lovingly restored by its present owner, antiquarian bookseller and festival chair Simon Finch. The two wings shelter a terrace overlooking the gardens, their formal beds edged with box hedges and punctuated by towering acanthus, which presently accommodate several large marquees.
Last night we heard Kate Mosse read the powerful opening of her latest novel Citadel. She delivered the 250,000-word epic about the French Resistance on Sunday, and finished checking her publisher’s corrections on Thursday. Ross Raisin, read from his most recent novel, Waterline, an account of a bereaved man’s descent into homelessness, its bleak subject matter offset by sharply observed humour. He revealed, interestingly, that he had taken lessons from a voice coach while writing the novel to prepare for readings like this one. The opening night concluded with a blistering set from British Sea Power.
This morning, I listened to Diana Athill read her short story “The Return”, written in the 1960s and recently reissued by Persephone. It’s an exquisite tale, perfectly balanced between humour and menace. Deftly interviewed by Damian Barr, she reflected on her long life in publishing, during which she has edited Simone de Beauvoir, V S Naipaul, Jean Rhys, Norman Mailer and Philip Roth, and on working for Andre Deutsch. She recalled Rhys’s mystified response to the sexual revolution of the Sixties: “I can’t think what this is all about. When I first came to London in 1940, everybody was sleeping with everybody else, and we were all on drugs.”
Asked by a member of the audience what she thought of the press printing photos of Prince Harry’s billiard tackle, she said, “If anyone wants to see the silly boy, why shouldn’t they?”Tagged in: Diana Athill, Festivals, Kate Mosse, literature, Voewood Festival
Recent Posts on Arts
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter