Parisot Literary Festival

Anyone who lives in a small village will know that there are times when you really do wonder if there is anyone out there. It can be so quiet it feels like you're the only one in the world, especially now the days are getting colder and people retreat into the warmth of their houses. There are however also times when it feels like we're back in the middle of London (almost...not really...but you can see what I'm getting at!) The car park is full, there are people milling around, and there is a general buzz because something is happening. This weekend was one of those weekends, as our village held its first literary festival, the 'Festival Litteraire de Parisot'.

The weekend was a mixture of talks and workshops by French and English authors. There was an illustration workshop for children, dinner with the authors, and an exhibition of 60 years of 'Livre de Poche' (literally translated as 'the Pocket Book'.) Looking at the programme I picked out a few events that I wanted to attend and on a very wet Saturday morning I headed off to the salle des fêtes where Maree Giles, an award winning Australian author was giving a presentation of her book 'Invisible Thread'.

Maree's story was pretty powerful. The book is based on her real life experience in Australia, where after leaving home at 16 she was arrested for living a life in 'moral danger'. She was sentenced to time in Parramatta Girl's Home, a notorious juvenile detention centre, where girls were stripped of all dignity, offered no schooling, and were made to carry out menial labour intensive tasks such as laundry and scrubbing floors. The atmosphere was one of fear and punishments were harsh. Girls who were pregnant had their babies taken away at birth for the adoption market, leaving them emotionally scarred, unable to deal with not being able to see their own child.

'Invisible Thread' was written at a time when people did not yet know the truth about Parramatta and the victims of forced adoption. The book thus contributed to an apology by the Australian government to 'The Forgotten Australians' as they are now known. I must admit this was all pretty intense for a Saturday morning, but it highlighted an issue that I was previously unaware of, and I would like to read the book to learn more.

The second author I saw was Amanda Hodgkinson who gave a talk and read excerpts from her novel '22 Britannia Road'. I instantly recognised the cover of this book, thinking I had seen it on my Mum's bookshelf, though it may be because I worked in Waterstones for a year! A wartime novel set around the Second World War, the story centres around a Polish husband, wife, and child, who after 6 years apart are trying to live a 'normal' life together in England. They each have their own issues to come to terms with and having listened to Amanda read snippets this is another book on my reading list. Amanda also talked about her writing process which was insightful as it's always interesting to hear the process behind the writing of a book. She often sees images first which inspire her to start writing, and she doesn't write with a beginning, middle, and end, but allows the words to flow and take her on a journey which seems like a wonderful way to write.

The final event I attended on the Sunday was a canapé demonstration and tasting session by Anne Dyson, the founder of the Greedy Goose Cookery school in Ambeyrac, France. Anne showed us how simple canapés could be as she whipped up a beetroot and wasabi mousse, choux buns with tuna and mayonnaise, cheese straws and anchovy twists, and foie gras sandwiched between figs, prunes and apricots. With a birthday coming up at the end of November I now have ideas of how to feed my guests! I also came away with some good cooking tips:
  • always use the stalks of parsley (I don't know why but up until now I have always used the leaves and thrown the stalks away)
  • why use a small pastry brush when a large paintbrush (from your local DIY store) does the job just as well
  • roast (rather than boil) beetroot as you retain the colour and flavour
The weekend was inspiring and I hope that the overall festival was a success as it would be fantastic if it returned next year. If it does I might let Andrew attend some of the events as I left him to entertain the boys whilst I discovered the joys of writing, caught up with friends, and enjoyed tea and cake in the médiathèque! Along with our annual art festival all that our village needs now is a music festival...any takers?!

Becky x

P.S. If anyone has read any other good books recently do comment and let us know.

1 comment

  1. Thanks for your write-up, Becky! I have yet to do my own on my blog. I'm so pleased you enjoyed it. We're just about to discuss how it went and plans for the future. As for a music festival - I totally agree. But I'm not offering!

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