Category: Books

Explore Sons and Lovers at this year’s DH Lawrence Festival

lawrenceDH1 (1)A festival celebrating one of Nottinghamshire’s most famous literary sons is returning next month with a host of different events planned.

The DH Lawrence Festival, which takes place between 6th and 21st September, will include exhibitions, lectures, vintage fairs, afternoon tea, walks, film screenings, music and activities for families in his home town of Eastwood and the surrounding area.

It is 100 years since Lawrence published his autobiographical novel Sons and Lovers and this year’s festival, now in its 10th year, is an opportunity to explore one of his most acclaimed works. Author Stephen Bailey will be leading a walk around Nottingham on 9th September when he will point out some of the landmarks depicted in the novel including Nottingham Castle and the Theatre Royal. On 12th September there will be another Sons and Lovers walk, this time around the countryside of Haggs Farm (Willey Farm in the novel) and Felley Woods. On the same day there will be a screening of the 1960 film at Broadway cinema. The landscape which inspired Sons and Lovers is also the subject of an illustrated talk which takes place at the DH Lawrence Heritage Centre, Eastwood, on 13th September.

For those who want to venture further afield I would recommend a trip to the picturesque Teversal Village near Sutton-in-Ashfield. As part of an open weekend event, which takes place between 6th and 8th September, there will be a chance to find out about Teversal Manor, which is thought to be Wragby Hall, the manor house in Lady Chatterley’s Lover. On 6th September, Dr Andrew Harrison from Nottingham University will be giving a talk on how the landscape of this region inspired Lady Chatterley’s Lover (call Denis Hill at Ashfield District Council on 01623 457426 to book).

Perhaps the event I am looking forward to the most is a screening of Inside the Mind of Mr Lawrence at Broadway. The film, which is set in 1928, stars Paul Slack who I interviewed two years ago ahead of his one-man play Phoenix Rising at Nottingham Playhouse in which he also played Lawrence. Paul, who is originally from Sutton-in-Ashfield, has a wonderful Nottinghamshire accent (there are few performers who can pull this off accurately!) and his shows are infused with breath-taking passion and energy.

Further details, including a full programme of events, can be found here. You can also find D.H. Lawrence Heritage on Facebook, on Twitter @dhlheritage and by using the hashtags #dhlawrence and #dhlawrencefestival.

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Review: Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys

voyageinthedarkAt first, Jean Rhys’ 1934 novel Voyage in the Dark reads like a coming-of-age story. The protagonist Anna Morgan has been brought to England from her home in the Caribbean by her step-mother. She works as a chorus girl touring drab English towns which all look alike to her. Her innocence is soon eroded by the people she meets and the seedy which she inhabits.

But the novel also explores the wider theme of how people can be displaced by colonialism while challenging western notions of superiority. The cold, grey and often dangerous streets of Edwardian London contrast with the vivid descriptions of balmy evenings spent in the Caribbean, surrounded by colourful, sweet-smelling hibiscus.

Anna is deeply unsettled in London and observes life with detachment. She is constantly cold and prone to falling ill; what’s more, she is consumed by a crippling inertia that leads her to mutter the line: “I am nineteen and I’ve got to go on living and living and living.”

London is imagined as a cruel, materialist and godless place, without any kind of moral framework. Victorian values are seen only in the tutting of Anna’s disapproving landlady; instead we see flawed characters forced to go to great lengths to survive in this brutal world where there is no hope of redemption.

But while Anna may long to be back in the Caribbean there is also the suggestion that life there is far from perfect. In one disturbing part, the first person narrative is momentarily interrupted by a description of the Carib people who inhabited the islands before the arrival of African slaves and western settlers. The passage reads: “The Caribs indigenous to this island were a warlike tribe and their resistance to white domination . . . was fierce. They are now practically exterminated.”

The novel is written in a classic modernist style, where perception and experience are foregrounded. This passage, however, is written with a startling ‘objectivity’ which resembles a history or anthropology book of the time – and it is this narrative of western superiority that allowed colonialism to flourish for so long and proved to be so difficult to subvert.

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Peter Mortimer at Lowdham Book Festival

‘In Nottingham no-one could doubt my heritage. It was there in every flattened vowel.’ Peter Mortimer

Due to being at work all week I had missed most of this year’s Lowdham Book Festival which finished on Saturday – but I was so glad I caught the final talk by writer Peter Mortimer. Originally from Nottingham, Peter now lives in Tyneside and is a playwright, poet, editor, ‘extreme’ travel writer, children’s author and much more besides. He was at the festival to talk about his new book, Made in Nottingham, a kind of memoir about growing up on the Sherwood estate and his reflections on returning to the estate last year.

Peter grew up on Danethorpe Vale which happens to be round the corner from where I live. The streets and pubs he described were of course ones I know well but as a newcomer their names do not carry the same weight of memory for me.

At the beginning of both the book and the talk, Peter warns us with a poem about the dangers of clinging onto the past but there is a sense in which it can be cathartic to revisit the place where you grew up. For him, it’s not even about revisiting the people, most of whom are now gone, but seeing the buildings, going to pubs and cycling around the streets.

Of course, Peter has some warm memories of the area and the book is peppered with humorous anecdotes. But there is no fuzzy nostalgia and while the estate, which dates back to the 1920s, provided spacious homes with large gardens, it was a council estate nevertheless and if its residents became successful, they tended to move away.

Today, the estate is largely privately owned or privately rented. There are some residents who, judging by the alterations they have made to their homes, clearly have money and others who don’t. There are elderly folk, families, young professionals and a mixture of cultural backgrounds. And while I suspect the community spirit is not as strong as it once was, residents have a sense of pride in their area, reflected in events such as Sherwood Art Week and the many independent shops.

Made in Nottingham (published by Five Leaves) is available here.

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