It’s a pleasure to reblog, below, the Women Writers Network’s Favourite Reads of 2018. They’re recommendations of books authored by women, chosen by WWN founder members among the ones read in 2018. They’ve been collated and beautifully put together by our fellow network member Helen Taylor, author of “The Backstreets of Purgatory”. Thank you, Helen!
For those of you who may not know, I’m part of the Women Writers Network. We are a group of volunteers who run a Twitter account dedicated to supporting and promoting women writers. It is a brilliant place to discover new writers or to be reminded of old favourites, to share blog posts, writing tips, and get support on those days when you might be flagging.
Here, some of our founder members give their recommendations of their books of the year. Unlike most end of year lists, the books didn’t have to have been published in 2018. It means that some old favourites or the new discoveries that may have been published several years ago can get a mention too. Here are our recommendations (in alphabetical order by contributor).
A presentation of That Summer in Puglia took place on 16 April in the elegant surroundings of the Italian Cultural Institute in Belgrave Square. The Institute is a governmental organisation dedicated to promoting knowledge of Italy’s language and culture and to encouraging cultural and scientific collaboration with England and Wales.
My interviewer was Rosie Goldsmith, the acclaimed journalist, presenter, literary critic, Chair of the EBRD Prize, and much more! I’m so grateful to Rosie for her perceptive, engaged and knowledgeable questions.
Our discussion was introduced by Marco Delogu, Director of the Institute, under whose stewardship the organisation has hosted an exciting line-up of events across the arts and sciences. Check out the Institute’s rich schedule of forthcoming and past events here. Guests on the Literature side of the programme have included Roberto Calasso, Sandro Veronesi, Domenico Starnone, Ali Smith, Elif Shafak, Ben Okri, Jhumpa Lahiri… to name but a few.
Todd Swift, Director of Eyewear Publishing, spoke briefly about That Summer in Puglia before leaving Rosie and me to discuss the book in detail. Our conversation touched on plot, characters, setting, themes and structure, but also on aspects of various literary traditions (English, yes, but also Italian, German and French) which have flowed into it because of my personal history.
Many of the questions from the public were focused on the cross-cultural aspects of the novel and on the writing process: why had Puglia inspired me? Why is it an ideal setting for this particular story? Where does my detailed knowledge of Ostuni stem from? Which language do I consider to be my “mother tongue” and why? Having grown up in various countries, what are my views on cultural identity? How long did it take me to develop the plot, and how did I go about it?
Meeting people after the talk was a real joy. It was lovely to discover the variety of emotional resonances the book has for different people. I had been prepared for the fact that each reader will respond to certain aspects of a story more than to others, but I hadn’t expected how warmly people would share profound reflections and anecdotes from their lives. I’m very grateful to them.
The photos ‘Valeria and Rosie’, ‘Signing books’ and ‘Book display at the Institute by The Italian Bookshop’ are courtesy of Rosie Goldsmith, and reproduced with kind permission.
Rights to the photos ‘Marco Delogu’s introduction’ and ‘Todd Swift’s introduction’ are my own.