Led by James Naughtie, a group of readers talk to acclaimed authors about their best-known novels

Led by James Naughtie, a group of readers talk to acclaimed authors about their best-known novels


London, United Kingdom




Led by James Naughtie, a group of readers talk to acclaimed authors about their best-known novels




Rebecca Solnit - The Faraway Nearby

Rebecca Solnit is a leading American essayist and writer. She talks to James Naughtie and a group of invited readers about The Faraway Nearby, her recollections of her mother's advancing Alzheimer's and the power of storytelling. One summer, as their mother was diagnosed with dementia Rebecca's brother decided to harvest all the apricots from their mother’s tree, whether they were ripe or not. He delivered over 100lbs of the fruit to Rebecca and she found herself under deadline to sort them...


Jenny Offill – Dept. of Speculation

American novelist Jenny Offill talks to James Naughtie and readers about her novel Dept. of Speculation. The novel is the story of a relationship between two people whose names we never know. They meet by chance - she’s a writer and he's an artist working with sound. They write to each other and the return address on their envelopes is always Dept of Speculation. Egged on by a friend she calls the Philosopher they end up living together in a bug-infested apartment and have a daughter. But...


Jenny Offill

Jenny Offill on Dept. of Speculation


Marian Keyes - Rachel's Holiday

Marian Keyes talks about one of her most popular novels, Rachel's Holiday. Rachel Walsh is an Irish woman in her late 20s living in New York, but whose life is disintegrating around her. She's lost her dead-end job; her boyfriend Luke has broken up with her; her best friend and flat-mate Brigit can't cope with her behaviour any longer – and the reason for all this, which Rachel just can't see, is that she's become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Her 'holiday' is a trip into a rehab clinic in...


James Meek - The People's Act of Love

Journalist James Meek talks about his novel The People's Act of Love, first published in 2005, a bold and imaginative work based in the wilds of Siberia where a strange and violent group of individuals come together with sinister results. Set in a time of great social upheaval, warfare, and terrorism, and against a stark, lawless Siberia at the end of the Russian Revolution, The People’s Act of Love portrays the fragile coexistence of a beautiful, independent mother raising her son alone, a...


Erin Morgenstern - The Night Circus

American author Erin Morgenstern talks about her fantasy novel The Night Circus which has become a cult favourite with readers. James Naughtie presents and an invited group of readers ask the questions. It's the story of a mysterious Victorian travelling circus that only opens at night and is constructed entirely in black and white. Although there are acrobats, fortune-tellers and contortionists Le Cirque des Rêves is no conventional spectacle. Some tents contain clouds, some ice. the circus...


Ben Lerner - Leaving the Atocha Station

American author Ben Lerner talks about Leaving the Atocha Station, his first novel narrated by a young man living outside his usual experience. Adam Gordon is a brilliant, if highly unreliable, young American poet on a prestigious fellowship in Madrid, struggling to establish his sense of self and his relationship to art. Instead of following the dictates of his fellowship, Adam's 'research' becomes a meditation on the possibility of the genuine in the arts and beyond: are his relationships...


Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

To mark Bookclub's 21st birthday Helen Fielding talks about her creation Bridget Jones, with the first novel in the series, Bridget Jones's Diary. Bridget has now become an iconic figure in modern fiction. Bridget Jones started life as a weekly column in the pages of The Independent in 1995, when Fielding worked on the news desk. Refusing to use her own byline, Helen’s column chronicled the life and antics of fictional Bridget Jones as a thirty-something single woman in London trying to make...


Colson Whitehead - The Underground Railroad

Colson Whitehead talks about his novel The Underground Railroad with James Naughtie and readers The novel is a devastating and imaginative account of a young slave's bid for freedom from a brutal Georgian plantation in the American South. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast among the slaves and as she approaches womanhood is at greater risk of abuse from the owners. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about...


Aminatta Forna - The Memory of Love

Aminatta Forna discusses her novel The Memory of Love with James Naughtie and a group of readers. The Memory of Love has as its background three decades of unrest and violence in Sierra Leone, Aminatta Forna's father's home country and the one where she mostly grew up. The story deals with two sets of relationships, centering around the University teacher Elias Cole fifty years ago, at the time of unrest, and in the early years of this century after the civil war. In 1969 Elias falls in love...


Owen Sheers - I Saw A Man

Owen Sheers talks about his novel I Saw A Man with James Naughtie and a group of readers at the Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea. After the sudden loss of his wife, Michael Turner moves from Wales to London to start again. Living on a quiet street in Hampstead, he develops a close bond with the Nelson family next door: Josh, Samantha and their two young daughters. The friendship between Michael and the Nelsons at first seems to offer the prospect of healing, and then one Saturday afternoon in...


Gail Honeyman - Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Gail Honeyman talks about her novel Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine which won the 2017 Costa First Novel Award and has been a runaway success since. Gail was inspired to write her debut novel after reading an article in which a young woman described her lonely life. On the outside, her life was a success, with her own flat and a good job but the reality was she often went home on Friday evening and returned to work on Monday morning without speaking to a soul all weekend. Gail created...


David Szalay - All That Man Is

David Szalay discusses his novel All That Man Is which was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2016. All That Man Is is a meditation of modern man told through the stories of nine men from across Europe, who are all at different stages of their lives. David says the three ages of man was present in his mind as the nine stories fall naturally into youth, middle age and older age. The characters are seemingly unrelated, and their stories are rooted in a contemporary reality, with David...


Louise Doughty - Apple Tree Yard

Louise Doughty talks about her novel Apple Tree Yard, which went on to be a popular BBC television drama. It is the story of Yvonne, a high-flying married scientist, whose personal life is, by turns, erotic and troubled and, eventually, disastrous. Completely out of character, Yvonne has consensual sex with a stranger in the Palace of Westminster. So begins an affair with a man called Mark which in the end leads them both to the dock of the Old Bailey. Much of the book is told through...


Richard Holmes - The Age of Wonder

Richard Holmes talks about The Age of Wonder, his non-fiction account of the Romantic age, as scientific and artistic thinking began to diverge. In the book he describes the scientific ferment that swept through Britain in the late-18th century and tells the stories of the celebrated innovators and their great scientific discoveries: from telescopic sight and the discovery of Uranus to Humphrey Davy's invention of the miner's safety lamp, and from the first balloon flight to African...


Simon Mawer - Tightrope

Simon Mawer talks about Tightrope, an espionage story featuring the enigmatic agent Marian Sutro which is set during World War II and the years into the Cold War. Tightrope opens as Marian returns to England having survived Ravensbruck concentration camp. She had been parachuted into France by the Special Operations Executive and captured by the Germans in Paris. As peace comes Marian finds it impossible to adjust and find a role for herself. Then, enemies become friends, friends become...


Alice Oswald - Falling Awake

Alice Oswald, Radio 4's Poet in Residence, discusses her collection Falling Awake which won the Costa Poetry Prize 2016. Falling Awake explores two of Alice Oswald’s recurring preoccupations - with the natural world, and with the myths of more ancient civilizations. Alice studied Classics at university and on graduation became a gardener. Homer, she says, made her a gardener because in the ancient world, the archaic poets create continuity between human beings and our surroundings. The poems...


Jessie Burton - The Miniaturist

Jessie Burton discusses The Miniaturist, her debut novel which was the subject of a bidding war between 11 publishers at the 2013 London Book Fair. Set in Amsterdam in 1686–87, the novel was inspired by Petronella Oortman's doll's house which is on display at the Rijksmuseum. Jessie explains how she created her own fictional version of Nella Oortman for the novel. At the age of 18, Nella marries a rich merchant, Johannes Brandt, hoping for love and prosperity. Instead, she enters a world of...


Poet Simon Armitage on his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Simon Armitage talks to James Naughtie about his translation of the Middle English epic.


Meg Wolitzer - The Interestings

American author Meg Wolitzer discusses her novel The Interestings, which follows a group of friends from teenage years through to middle age and marriage and children. Aged 15, the group first meet at on a warm night at Spirit in the Woods summer camp in 1974. They drink, smoke pot and share their dreams and vow always to be interesting. Although not strictly an autobiographical novel, the idea for the book came from Meg's own experience as a teenager at summer camp in the same era and how...