Queen’s Park Book Festival 2022: Ghosts, grief, and gaia with authors across the UK

Queen’s Park Book Festival 2022: Ghosts, grief, and gaia with authors across the UK

by Suswati Basu

On a glorious September weekend in London, the Queen’s Park Book Festival took place, hailing authors from across the UK and abroad. From discussing identity, race and belonging to talking about ghosts and myths, there was an elated vibe despite being in a period of national mourning.

When We Were Birds author Ayanna Lloyd Banwo and Louisa Young, writer of Twelve Months and a Day spoke about ghosts in their novels at an apt time of national mourning. Unlike chains and the white sheets, their ghosts were animated and active, devices to bring about change in the world around them especially after their loss. At one point, Lloyd Banwo joked that she had enjoyed ghosts and she had spent time in graveyards as she researched her book. Young, another author who had experienced personal loss with the death of her fiancé, said that through the ghosts she had encountered she found humour. At one point they even recommended the Disney film Coco just for this very reason:

At the talk with Susie Boyt and Gwendoline Riley, who wrote the books Loved and Missed and My Phantoms respectively, they discussed the painful relationships between mother and daughter. Although each book is an inversion of the relationship, one being from the point of view of a daughter critiquing the mother, and the other of the mother traumatised by the daughter, there were incredible parallels between the writers. Both are on their seventh book, both write short prose, based on the domestic, and both are set to published by the same publisher in the US. Boyt is particularly known for being part of an incredible dynasty, as the great granddaughter of psychologist Sigmund Freud and daughter of artist Lucien Freud. However, she has carried on the tradition of being in the arts as a novelist. The most intriguing parts of the books are the fact it follows the uncomfortable theatrical device of a suffocating relationship, similar to Samuel Beckett or Tennessee Williams characters. Here is a moment where they talk about how fathers feature in the book:

The evening ended with the likes of Oblivion and Ghost Writer veteran novelist Robert Harris, whilst at the same time, Shame on Me author Tessa McWatt and The Mermaid of Black Conch author Monique Roffey joined The White Review editor Izabella Scott to talk about race, identity and climate change.

Signed Tessa McWatt book The Snow Line

The two day event has been revived over the past five years, and past authors have included local bestselling novelist Zadie Smith, award winning authors Tessa Hadley, John Lanchester, Guy Gunaratne, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Jonathan Coe, Philip Hensher and Booker prize-winning novelists Howard Jacobson, Eleanor Catton and Bernardine Evaristo. The festival celebrates the literary arts in all its forms and has welcomed directors Stephen Frears and Nicholas Hytner as well as the acclaimed actors Simon Russell Beale and Reece Shearsmith.

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