The very lovely Henley Literary Festival

Henley Literary Festival is without doubt one of my favourite cultural events of the year.

From the amazing choice of speakers (every genre you could think of is covered!), to the beautiful setting, to the fascinating subjects, to the most amazing brownies you’ll ever eat – it really is just a total gem.

Henley looking pretty in the Autumn sunshine -check out that bunting!
Henley looking pretty in the Autumn sunshine -check out that bunting!

The festival runs for a week, but I joined the party a little late this year due to work commitments, just hopping over on the final weekend for two days of literary loveliness.

On the Saturday I went along as a book lover, and listened to two wonderful – and completely different – talks. Both were hosted Q&As, with a good chunk of time for audience questions too.

The stage where Sebastian & Bryony's events took place
The stage where Sebastian & Bryony’s events took place

First up was Sebastian Faulks, who reminded me of why I adore escaping into a really good book. Sebastian spoke about his new novel, Where My Heart Used to Beat, which sounds incredible, and also talked about the art of writing. He said how the hardest part of writing a novel is finding your voice, and that Engleby was his easiest book to write as the narrator’s voice appeared to him one day. (If you haven’t read it, I would totally recommend it – the narrator is a fascinating character).

An audience member also asked Sebastian what the ‘right’ way to read a book is, and he spoke about leaving any preconceptions at the first page, and just letting yourself get lost in the story. It took me back to when I read Birdsong and then kept going to the library again and again until I’d finished every single one of Sebastian’s books. I remember feeling bereft when I realised there weren’t any more.

After Sebastian’s talk, I made my way to the Henley Literary Festival hub in the centre of town and spent a lovely hour reading a collection of short stories, which had been entered into a competition run by the festival and Dragonfly tea. Dragonfly were also selling cups of tea with a Gower Cottage brownie for £1, which was a total bargain. And those brownies, oh my goodness, they are the most gooey, chocolatey, gorgeous brownies I’ve ever had.

Chilling in the hub where you could buy a cup of Dragonfly tea and a Gower cottage brownie for £1
Chilling in the hub with tea and cake

The second talk I went to later in the evening, was Bryony Gordon in conversation with Polly Vernon. Bryony was speaking about her memoir, Mad Girl, in which she writes about living with OCD and depression.

Bryony was so honest, talking about some of the really difficult things she had been through, but also bringing in humour and some really interesting anecdotes. The way she spoke so openly and passionately about mental health and how the system and society treats people with mental health conditions, also really struck a chord with the audience. I’ve never seen a Q&A which was quite so raw and emotional and people really opened up about the things they had been through.

After both events I felt really inspired, and, at a risk of sounding totally pompous, I really did feel culturally enriched. There’s just something so wonderful about listening to writers talk about their work and their experiences. It’s a little like being back in a university lecture hall with the most fascinating speakers to listen to and learn from.

After Saturday I was so excited for Sunday, when it was my turn to get up on the stage. More to come on that in another post very soon!

Top 10 picks for Henley Literary Festival

Top 10 picks for Henley Literary Festival

Henley Literary Festival is one of my favourite Autumn events.

Packed with a huge variety of authors, and set in one of the most stunning towns in the South, it’s a week of pure literary loveliness.

In the past I’ve seen David Nicholls, Candace Bushnell, Sue Perkins, Dawn O’Porter and Rupert Everett, and each was absolutely fantastic.

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If you’re not familiar with how a literary festival event works, it’s basically a conversation between the author and a journalist or presenter, who asks them questions about their work and life. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to hear the author read an extract from their book. (David Nicholls reading Us was amazing).

Once again the line-up at Henley Literary Festival is fantastic, with a real mix of speakers, from politicians to comedians, and with journalists, musicians and a Great British Bake-Off winner in there for good measure too.

Although the festival isn’t until September, I was invited along to the launch party at Hotel Du Vin in Henley early this week. The sun was shining, we had a good old browse of the programme, and I booked my tickets there and then. It was so hard to pick what to see, so to help, I’ve put together my top 10 picks for this year’s festival. Tickets go on general sale over here on Monday, 18 July.

  1. Harry Parker – Anatomy of a Soldier. Monday 26th September, 4.30pm. Kenton Theatre. £10.

Former soldier Harry Parker has written a fictional book about an army captain who loses both his legs – the same thing which happened to Harry himself in Afghanistan.

  1. Tom Parker-Bowles – The Fortnum and Mason Cookbook. Tuesday 27th September, 12.30pm. Kenton Theatre. £12.50.

Mail on Sunday and Esquire columnist Tom Parker-Bowles discuss his new recipe book, for which he has teamed up with iconic brand Fortnum and Mason.

  1. Gary Younge – America Today. Tuesday 27th September, 8.30pm. Town Hall. £9.

US correspondent turned editor-at large, Gary Younge, discusses his book A Day in the Death of America which is based on the fact that on an average day in America seven young people die from gunshot wounds.

  1. Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story (Family). Saturday 1st October, 11am. Christ Church. £12 including a copy of Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story.

Nadiya Hussain, winner of last year’s Great British Bake-Off, brings a family friendly event to Henley to celebrate the launch of her children’s baking book. (She was excellent at Reading Year of Culture and I would heartily recommend going to her talk).

  1. Judith Kerry: The Tiger Who Came to Tea and other Animal Tales (Family). Sunday 2nd October, 1pm. Kenton Theatre. £12 including a copy of Mr Cleghorn’s Seal.

Judith is making her Henley debut at 93 and she will be looking back at her career which includes the 1968 classic, The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

  1. Laura Bates – Girl Up. Saturday 1st October, 3pm. Town Hall. £9.

The very inspiring Laura Bates founded Everyday Sexism, a project which talks about sexism, equality and women’s rights. She’ll be bringing her new book, Girl Up, to Henley.

     7. Sebastian Faulks. Saturday 1st October, 3pm. Kenton Theatre. £15 including a glass of wine.

Author of A Week in December, Charlotte Gray, and most notably Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks is one of the most acclaimed writers of our day. He’ll be discussing his latest novel, Where My Heart Used to Beat. (I’ve got tickets to this one, can’t wait!).

     8. Sara Pascoe – Animal. Saturday 1st October, 7pm. Kenton Theatre. £10.

Sara will be bringing her thoughts on the female body to Henley and judging by her performances on comedy panel shows, I imagine it’s going to be very funny indeed.

  1. Bryony Gordon – Mad Girl. Saturday 1st October, 9pm. Kenton Theatre. £10.

I can’t wait to hear Bryony Gordon speak about her book Mad Girl. In the book, Bryony, who is a columnist for The Telegraph, talks about growing up with OCD, and the impact it has had on her life.

  1. Jo Malone – The Scent of Success. Sunday 2nd October, 5pm. Christ Church. £12.50.

Everytime I walk past a Jo Malone counter I’m so tempted to buy some of her gorgeous candles and fragrances. Jo will be talking about her career and how she began her hand made beauty business from her home in Kent, having left school early to care for her mother.

Review: The Hollow at The Mill at Sonning

Review: The Hollow at The Mill at Sonning

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There is no-one who does a murder mystery quite like Agatha Christie.

The clever plot, the sassy characters and the delicious undercurrent of suspicion – it’s all there in The Hollow and The Mill at Sonning’s version certainly does Christie’s writing justice.

Directed by renowned actor Brian Blessed, who happened to be in the audience the night we went along, the play sizzles with intrigue, betrayal, and of course, murder most foul.

With Dr John Christow lying dead on the floor, having been fatally wounded by gun shots, the finger of suspicion begins to points to every guest who has gathered at the home of Sir Henry and Lady Angkatell for the weekend. And the scene has been set so impeccably well, it is near impossible to guess who actually pulled the trigger.

Sassy American Veronica Cray (Leanne Rowe) and John Cristow (Jason Riddington)
Sassy American Veronica Cray (Leanne Rowe) and John Cristow (Jason Riddington)

Jason Riddington played John Cristow as a brazen lothario, certainly not thinking with his brain, and it made for a thrilling love triangle with his insipid wife Gerda (Emily Stride), his warm and charming mistress Henrietta (Rosalind Blessed) and his fiery former lover, the American, Veronica Craye (Leanne Rowe).

Rowe was wonderful as screen siren Cray and the spotlight on her entrance was a stroke of genius. It was one of several playful moments, which, along with some witty humour, made The Hollow feel fresh and modern, a far cry from the stuffy libraries of traditional murder mysteries.

There are several things you want from a good murder mystery. Intrigue, of course, strong characters and pace, and The Mill hits two out of three perfectly, with just the pace needing to be a bit snappier. Despite two detectives being hot on the heels of the murderer, the questioning felt quite drawn out in the second half. One red herring too many may have let our thirst for the truth wane a little in between, although the reveal was thoroughly satisfying when it did arrive.

Edward Angkatell (Alexander Neal) and Henrietta (Rosalind Blessed)
Edward Angkatell (Alexander Neal) and Henrietta (Rosalind Blessed)

With a very strong cast – Hildegard Neil in particular gave a fantastically kooky performance as Lady Angkatell – and such a masterful script, The Hollow is an intriguing and entertaining piece of theatre, and a mystery which certainly does keep you guessing right until the very end.

The Hollow is at The Mill at Sonning from now until 3 September. To book visitwww.themillatsonning.com.

I was invited to review The Hollow so my tickets were complimentary but all opinions are my own.

The July Booklist

The July Booklist

Reading is the best kind of escapism.

Sometimes, when your brain is buzzing as loudly as the notifications on your smart phone, you just need somewhere to run away to.

And for me, hiding away in the pages of a good book is the best antidote to real life stress.

If it’s a really good book, it will also give me something to hold on to, somewhere for my mind to roam and stretch its legs, when everything else is a bit too much.

I’ve been reading a lot lately and it’s been a refreshing escape from bad weather and crappy politics.

So here are the books I’ve been reading over the last month.

Carol by Patricia Highsmith – 4/5

When Carol was first published in 1952, it was released under a pseudonym due to its content – a story about a lesbian relationship. It’s saddening to think that any kind of sexuality could be censored or hidden in that kind of way, but that’s a theme that runs strongly through Carol. When shop assistant Therese meets Carol just before Christmas, so begins a magnetic relationship that sees them drawn together, and almost forced apart by the prejudices of society, and a detective employed by Carol’s husband. The novel is thick with unsaid things, so much so that when I’d finished I had to read a synopsis to make sure I’d understood the end right. But in its silence lies a real power, which makes this a truly compelling, and very atmospheric, love story.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/30/forbidden-love

Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher – 3/5

Billy and Me arrived in my hands at just the right time. After finishing Carol, which was such an intense love story, I was craving something light and lovely. And Billy and Me is exactly that. A lot of my friends have read it (mostly because they follow Tom & Giovanna on social media and love the Fletchers!), which is what made me pick it up, and it is a nice, dreamy read. It follows village girl Sophie May, whose world changes when she meets movie star Billy, while he is filming his latest film in her village. As their relationship grows, Sophie is forced to confront the darker sides of Billy’s glamorous world, and to reveal a secret she’s been desperate to hide. Reading Billy and Me, feels a bit like watching a romcom of the Notting Hill era – you don’t have to think too hard, it’s sweet, charming, and goes really well with a big bar of Galaxy chocolate.

http://www.novelicious.com/2013/08/review-billy-and-me-by-giovanna-fletcher.html

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton – 4.5/5

This was another of the books recommended to me at the Mr B’s Reading Spa, and, although I didn’t buy it at the time, I am so glad I came back to it. It is the story of Ava, a girl born with wings, and her family. It’s mystical, and fantastical, weaving together curious tales of Ava’s grandmother, her mother, Aunts and Uncles. It’s full of woeful tales of love, and terrible tragedies, some fierce, some shocking. As I was reading Ava Lavender I noticed inside the front cover it said it had been nominated for a children’s book prize, and I almost choked on my cup of tea. I had no idea it wasn’t a novel for adults, but it just goes to show the quality of YA books. A stunning, heartbreaking novel.

http://www.teenreads.com/reviews/the-strange-and-beautiful-sorrows-of-ava-lavender

Books to read next:

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien

Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

The June booklist

The June booklist

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I love buying new books. There is a real joy in wandering round a bookshop reading the blurbs, picking up unopened stories, putting them down again, and trying to work out what you actually want to invest your time in.

A lot of the time I simply go for the books which sound most appealing to my tastes. Sometimes I’ve heard about them through friends, sometimes they’ve landed in my hands because I’ve been given them by Cat, and on rare occasions you get a phenomenon book that everyone is talking about and I pop out to buy it from curiosity.

I was given a book voucher for my birthday last week and I can’t wait to start a new reading pile, so do leave a comment or tweet me @cazcook27 if you have any recommendations.

And for now, here’s what I’ve read over the last month.

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson – 4/5

This is a Young Adult novel, but seeing the letters YA, really shouldn’t put you off. There are some fantastic books for young people (Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls springs to mind as another), and this is a brilliant book. It tells the story of David, a teenage boy, who wants to be a girl. When a new kid called Leo arrives at school, wanting only to blend in, an unlikely friendship begins to form. The Art of Being Normal explores important themes, but it does so in a way that isn’t preachy. It’s an honest, powerful story about teenagers at high school trying to figure out who they are.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/children_sbookreviews/11360894/The-Art-of-Being-Normal-by-Lisa-Williamson-review.html

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes – 3.5/5

The film version of Me Before You is hitting the headlines at the moment with campaigners voicing their unhappiness with the way it deals with disability. I haven’t seen the film yet, so I’m only writing about the book here. Me Before You is the story of Lou and Will, a woman who isn’t sure what to do with her life, and a man who became a quadriplegic after a road accident. When Lou is employed as Will’s carer, their relationship slowly blossoms, but there’s a catch. Will has made up his mind to end his life at a suicide clinic, and Lou only has a few weeks to try and stop him. It’s a challenging theme, but it’s handled well. Some of the story is a bit saccharine, and a little too obvious, but there’s also a real delicacy and tenderness to it, and I really did fall for this unusual love story.

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig – 3/5

I first picked this up at Waterloo station when I was waiting for a train but the queue was too long so I put it down again. Then I saw it again in a supermarket, and felt compelled to buy it again. Reading the blurb I was expecting something life-affirming, something which would make me feel grateful and inspired. Reasons to Stay Alive is not about that, but then neither is depression. The book is a memoir, an account of Matt Haig’s struggle with depression, from when it arrived at 24 and turned his life upside down. It is Matt’s exploration of the impact it had on him and how he got through it, but it also unpicks depression in a unique way, with lists like ‘things you think during your first panic attack’. It isn’t a diary of life-affirming quotes, it’s a really raw, honest, personal account, reading almost like an essay, with anecdotes alongside. I really did learn a lot from it, and I think it’s one I’ll probably dip in and out of again in the future.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jan/31/reasons-to-stay-alive-matt-haig-review-depression

Books to read next:

Carol by Patricia Highsmith

Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

The Dust that falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien

The April Booklist

The April Booklist

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Quite a hefty portion of Sunday was spent curled up on the sofa with a good book and the sun streaming through the window.

I love a day when you’ve got time to really fly through a book, only moving to get a cup of tea or the last few pieces of Easter egg. (I have no idea how I’ve still got some left either).

Here’s what’s been on the reading list for the last six weeks:

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson – 4.5/5

As a Twitter addict I found this utterly fascinating. It’s a non-fiction book which sees Ronson exploring some of the biggest social media storms which have taken place over the last few years, and finding out about the lasting –and often terrifying – impact they’ve had on those at the centre. One of the stories which intrigued, shocked and appalled me most was that of Justine Sacco who posted what she thought was quite an inconsequential tweet just before getting on board a plane, and then found her life was destroyed by the time she landed. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed feels like a glimpse into the sheer madness of social media.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/05/so-youve-been-publicly-shamed-jon-ronson-review

A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman – 2.5/5

The thing that struck me about A Man Called Ove, is that it feels like it should be a short story.
It follows Ove, a man who lives alone, and gets annoyed by everything from cats to cars. Of course, beneath the curmudgeonly exterior there lies a lonely heart aching for something which has been lost.
There are some real, heart-warming moments throughout the novel but the set up is the same for each scenario – grumpy old man gets annoyed about something and is won round by a kind, helpful stranger who sees through his gruff exterior. I can’t help but feel like it would pack more punch if it were all condensed into something more compact.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/a-man-called-over-by-frederick-backman-trans-henning-koch-book-review-9597874.html

After the Crash by Michael Bussi – 3/5

This was the book I was tearing through on Sunday. A total page turner, this had me intrigued throughout. The story begins with a plane crash, where the sole survivor is a baby girl. With two baby girls on board, born days apart, no-one knows which child has survived. Two sets of grandparents try to claim her, one wealthy, one poor, and so begins an 18-year mystery to work out the true identity of the girl.
The writing feels a little clunky at times but the plot had plenty of twists and turns to make up for it and it kept me guessing right until the end.

http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/book-reviews/a-terrible-plane-crash-a-dragonfly-baby-and-the-mystery-that-refuses-to-end-31059465.html

Books to read next:

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson 

The February Booklist

The February Booklist

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For a while, I used to write a mini book review post after I’d finished reading a book.

It started to play on my mind when I was reading, distracting me from the enjoyment I’d usually take from curling up with a cup of tea and a good book. If I’m totally honest with you, and myself, it started to feel a bit like a chore and reading (and blogging) should never feel like that. The internet is full of really great book reviewers, and I didn’t feel like I could add all that much, I really just wanted to wave a flag saying ‘read this, it’s amazing!’.

From now on, I’ll share what I’ve read every month or so, with a very short snippet of what I thought, and a list of the books I’ve bought or borrowed which are waiting to be read. Hopefully there will be just enough to make you want to find out more, and plenty of places where you can do that – I’ll try and post links to full reviews to help. Happy reading!

2016’s books so far

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler – 4/5
This is both a great, sprawling story of human life and families, and a book where nothing extraordinary happens at all. It’s the story of the Whitshanks, and the big, American house which sees new life being born, and old life passing through. I really enjoyed reading this, it’s a slow burner, but the writing is gentle and beautiful, and there’s a wonderful realism to it all.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/01/spool-of-blue-thread-anne-tyler-observer-review

Spectacles by Sue Perkins – 4/5
The joy of a good autobiography is when you can hear the author reading it aloud in your head. I had exactly that with Spectacles, and all the way through Sue’s friendly voice and relaxed humour rang out. Although a little shy on the Bake-Off years (let’s be honest, we were all hoping for Sue to spill the beans on Bezza doing something wild), it’s interesting to see how she carved out her television career, and to hear about the wonderful friendship she shares with Mel. And it’s really funny too.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/spectacles-by-sue-perkins-book-review-baked-to-perfection-a6677391.html

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett – 5/5

Every now and again a book comes along which just makes you feel something extraordinary. Its characters occupy your mind at random moments, like distant friends you should really check in on again, and when you finish reading you cry as much for a sad ending, as for the fact it’s all over. The Versions of Us was one of those books for me. Split into three narratives, each a version of what might have happened to Eva and Jim, the story charts their lives from meeting at 19 to old age. Despite a complicated premise, it flows seamlessly, and it makes you question the choices we make and how they alter the course of our lives.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/06/the-versions-of-us-laura-barnett-review

Books to read next:

A man called Ove by Fredrick Backman

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Book Bites: A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson

Book Bites: A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson

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Sometimes you just need a bit of chick lit.

It might not be on the bestseller list or one of the classics, but sometimes you just need a story where boy meets girl and everyone lives happily ever after.

A Parcel for Anna Browne is that kind of book. It’s a bit silly, a bit dreamy, but it’s the kind of book you can speed through on the train home from work without thinking too much.

Anna Browne is a bit of a mouse. She works on the reception desk of a national newspaper and doesn’t have much excitement in her life…until a mystery parcel arrives. The contents of the parcel sparks a change in Anna, and as more arrive she gradually finds her voice. When a job swap (groan) gets her closer to the newsroom she makes some surprising new friends but there are old enemies waiting to ruin her happy ending.

It’s all very cliché, very predictable, and more than a little cringeworthy, but, and there is a but, it kept me hooked. I wanted to know when the next parcel was arriving, and to find out the identity of the mystery sender, even if I did find myself skimming over the saccharine romantic froth in between.

A Parcel for Anna Browne feels like it’s been written as a wannabe movie romcom, and it’s the kind of movie that stars Jennifer Aniston and works its way on to the Netflix catalogue pretty quickly.

When it is done well, a piece of chic lit can make you fall for its characters and get caught up in their heartbreaks and triumphs. When it is not done quite so well, it just leaves you wondering what’s in the next parcel.

Henley Literary Festival: Sue Perkins

Henley Literary Festival: Sue Perkins
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The setting for Sue’s talk at Henley Literary Festival

There are two things I learnt from Sue Perkins at the Henley Literary Festival. One: always be kind to stressed out bakers, and two: never let your best friend organise the entertainment for your 30th birthday party.

Sue was at the Kenton Theatre talking about her autobiography Spectacles with journalist Bryony Gordon. It was a totally sold-out audience, which isn’t surprising given that the Great British Bake-Off final is next week.

Before the Bake-Off chat got underway Sue spoke about different parts of her life which are covered in the book – many of which have already hit the headlines – like her six year relationship with a man, and the heartbreak of finding out she can’t have children.

She spoke honestly and genuinely, dealing with some tough subjects but also managing to pepper the conversation with sparks of humour and lightness. It’s easy to see why she’s a calming influence in the Bake-Off tent.

Literary Festival goodness
Literary Festival goodness

She also read a section from Spectacles, about having her car vandalised, and spoke about being dry humped by a gorilla which Mel had organised for her 30th birthday party, thinking he would just be reading a poem. Both anecdotes were hilarious and I can’t wait to get stuck into the book properly next week.

With Bake-Off everywhere at the moment, conversation naturally turned to the final next week. Although Sue wasn’t giving anything away it was really interesting to get a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes, especially when she spoke about how stressful it can be and how she and Mel step in to support the contestants when they’re on the brink of a macaron meltdown.

She also spoke with genuine warmth about the ‘queen’ Mary Berry, or Bezza as she referred to her,  and, much to my delight she also casually threw in a ‘Bake!’ at one point too. A genuinely lovely lady, and another brilliant evening at Henley Literary Festival.

Henley Literary Festival: Candace Bushnell

Henley Literary Festival: Candace Bushnell

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There was a moment during Candace Bushnell‘s talk at Henley Literary Festival when she asked the room, (almost entirely filled with women), if they had ever been hurt by a man.

Pretty much every hand in the room went up, including mine rather sheepishly. It reminded me of the gym scene in Mean Girls when Ms Norbury asks the girls to put up their hands if they’ve ever said anything bad about a friend behind their back and everyone sticks their hands up.

These are intrinsically female experiences, and they’re the reason we quote Mean Girls endlessly, and why we adore Sex and the City.

Hannah Beckerman and Candace Bushnell
Hannah Beckerman and Candace Bushnell

Like many 20-something women, Carrie Bradshaw was one of the reasons I became a journalist. Admittedly I was a little swayed by the thought of writing columns in expensive shoes while swigging a cosmo, but it was also the experiences her career gave her, and her ability to put that into funny, wild, compelling articles, which made me think, ‘I want to do that too’.

Candace’s talk at Henley Literary Festival, where she was interviewed by author and journalist Hannah Beckerman, was wonderful. It made me feel empowered as a woman and a writer, and there were plenty of snippets which just struck me as bloody brilliant advice.

Here’s a few gems from Candace:

  • In a world of social media, our ‘Monica’ self is increasingly important. (This refers to Candace’s new book Killing Monica in which a successful writer, Pandy Wallis, has to deal with the huge success of the character she has created).
  • “I want to see woman who are able to be the primary person in their lives, as opposed to a person who is defined by their relationship to other people.”
  • What do we give up as women when we get married?
  • When you are 40 you have 20 years career experience. (This made me think about my own career and the fact I’m only really six years in. There’s so much more to come).
  • Love is something that you give, and being loved is not actually a right
  • Be wild like Lena Dunham (hell yeh!)
  • “What I would have said to my younger self is really go for it and don’t care what people think”
  • On social media: “The good stuff and the bad stuff doesn’t matter, it’s all just floating by like a body on the river”
  • Sex and the City is like lightening in a bottle

Candace touched on Sex and the City, “yes there was a real Mr Big!”, but the conversation spun into all sorts of topics including feminism, social media and women’s role in society, Hollywood and publishing.

Candace is an inspiring woman and I was also lucky enough to bump into her outside the green room where she was patient and lovely as I did a bit of fan girling about SATC and we had a brief chat about English weather and how pretty Henley is.

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Henley is the perfect venue for a literary festival and each year I’m taken aback by just how good the line up is. It’s well worth checking out the festival website to see what they’ve got tickets left for. I’m booked in to see Sue Perkins on Friday and absolutely cannot wait.

Candace’s talk was a fantastic start to the festival, and to the week. All that’s left now is to take off the heels and finish my cosmopolitan.