There is only one day left until the most bookish day of the year. To celebrate, Literature Works' CEO has written a love letter to reading and writers in the region, because the South West has wealth of talent for our Region of Readers to discover.
“It’s the eve of World Book Day 2018 and – relief! – I am not making yet another clumsy attempt at a child’s character costume. My son is still a reader, but he is now a teenager who will never again allow himself to be seen with hair sprayed red as yet another member of the Weasley family. Instead, WBD this year coincides rather brilliantly with the South West Region of Readers project, which combines a brand new reader app (to be released soon), a curated reading list of South West writing talent, shared readings groups, and events in libraries.
Here at Literature Works, we had the pleasure of curating the reading list for the Region of Readers, researching and helping to bring together a diverse collection of works by past and present writers from this region. The great breadth and variation of writing threw up so many delights. Top of the list for me, is the late Helen Dunmore’s first novel, Zennor in Darkness, which I read when it was first published in 1993. I was living in London then and its west Cornwall setting seemed impossibly beautiful. The book picks up also on a Region of Readers theme about how the great literary heritage of South West England continues to inspire contemporary writers. It touches on the historical reality of D H Lawrence and his German wife hiding out from World War One anti-German sentiment, in a cottage high on a Cornish cliff. I remember how it intrigued and touched me then. Now, it is doubly poignant following Helen Dunmore’s death last year and the publication of Inside the Wave, her intensely moving, prizewinning collection of poems written in the last weeks of her life.
Elsewhere on the list, award-winning playwright and novelist Nell Leyshon delved into 1830s rural Dorset and wrote her 2012 first novel, The Colour of Milk entirely in the voice of a disenfranchised teenaged girl at that time. Set in the same county, Sylvia Townsend Warner’s 1926 publication, Dorset Stories presents a seemingly unchanging and quiet rural life, despite the author living in what was then a radically unconventional way as a committed Communist in an openly same-sex relationship. Townsend Warner’s celebrated novel, Lolly Willowes was also published in 1926 and tells the tale of a middle-aged spinster who moves to the countryside and takes up witchcraft. Bristol-based Vanessa Kisuule’s 2017 collection of poems, A Recipe for Sorcery explores similar themes in very different ways. This is just one of many threads that run through our curated reading list for the South West Region of Readers project.
It is sheer pleasure, as a reader, to pick up those threads and to see the ways – both direct and mysterious – in which writers influence and echo each other through the decades and centuries. We hope the list and the talent it pulls together will provide ways in and inspiration for many hundreds of readers throughout our region and further afield.”