Thursday, 24 February 2011

Loving reading - and loving Henry VIII!

Over the next couple of weeks Bath is due to go book crazy. And, as an unashamed bookworm I, for one, absolutely love it.

Next Thursday, for instance, there will there be a huge amount of events in schools and beyond to celebrate World Book Day. But before then, from Saturday onwards, the city will be awash with authors and book lovers galore as the Bath Literature Festival begins eight days of lively, varied events.

This year, as well as seeing lots of top class writers mooching around you will also see literally dozens of Bath Chronicle reviewers as well. A couple of months ago we put an appeal in our paper for people to review one of the many events and we were deluged by would-be reviewers who will all be toodling along on our, and your, behalf to give the people’s view of LitFest 2011.

I too will be among the ‘team’ and I’m due to kick off my reviewing stint at the first official event – Dr David Starkey’s talk about Henry VIII on Saturday morning at the Central United Reformed church.Dr Starkey is well known for his TV history but it is his study of old Henry which has given him his most talked about shows. And that is because we, as a nation, are utterly fascinated by Henry VIII.

There have been dozens of monarchs between old Harry and our current queen but none have captured the imagination as much as the portly man who when faced with two of his wives whom he really couldn’t stand was able to shout “off with their heads”. So keen are we on everything Tudor that I can remember one academic complaining that the only things that children are taught about in school in history these days are the two H’s – Henry and Hitler.

As an example, only a few weeks ago the book club we have here in the office focused on another writer who specialises in Mr Six Wives, – Phillipa Gregory. We looked at her book The Other Boleyn Girl which is about the intriguing love triangle between Anne Boleyn, her sister Mary and the King himself. Having already seen the very entertaining film – partly filmed near the village of Holt at Great Chalfield – I was intrigued to read the book and like all of my fellow club members I thoroughly enjoyed it. But we still spent as long talking about Henry and the women that almost literally threw themselves in front of his broad canvas as the book itself.

So I’m very much looking forward to Dr Starkey’s speech on Saturday morning just as much as I’m sure many of you are for the wide variety of other shows that make up this year’s Bath Literature Festival.We are indeed very fortunate to be able to live in a city that has so many festivals and I believe the literature one – and its excellent junior version the Bath Children’s Literature Festival – is particularly important as a way of reminding people that you can really delve into the imagination and learn so much about life, the universe and everything without ever switching on a computer.

Look out in the next two Chronicle’s to see our army of reviewers’ opinions on the big shows and, if all else fails, just curl up with a good book this weekend.

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