Sunday, 7 February 2016

A Tale of two book launches

In the last week or so I've been to two very different sorts of book launch. The first was in York, in a medieval building, where mulled ale and various spiced tartlets were served. After a five hour drive that got us there just in time for the speech, we were present to celebrate a book by my sister-in-law, Dr. Anna Baldwin.

Photo credit: York Press
The launch of An Introduction to Medieval English Literature (Palgrave) was special in more than one way. Of course it's always good to celebrate the achievement of a family member ("Is writing contagious?" asked another extended family member on Facebook). And this is not Anna's first achievement or book.

A First in English Literature from Girton was followed by a PhD on Piers Plowman which led to her first book. Years of teaching at York University and Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, while raising a family, were touched at first lightly and increasingly severely by deteriorating eyesight. By the time the current book was completed, Anna was virtually blind.

You can read about how she managed to complete it with the help of friends made through the York Quakers, to whom it is dedicated, in this article in York Press.

It is daunting even to contemplate writing an introductory interview to English Literature from 1300 to 1485, considering all the manuscripts in Middle English and the host of books written about them in the centuries since. But my sister-in-law doesn't daunt easily. She still cooks for the family and friends, as we were able to enjoy last weekend, even when she has difficulty locating the ingredients in her kitchen.

So this book, the fruit of many years' work is a triumph on the personal front. But it will also be exceptionally useful for both undergraduates and A-level students, in teaching whom the author has decades of experience. It is extremely readable and interesting and takes the unusual approach of organising the literature in terms of the social strata who read it or heard it. And it brings to the fore the work of women like Dame Julian of Norwich and Marjory Kemp.

The cover, showing an illustration of Mary reading while Joseph minds the baby, sums up so much of what this book and its author are about.

Launch number two was celebrated with prosecco and canapes and tiny cupcakes featuring the book's cover. This took place in Daunt's, Marylebone High Street and the author, Kathryn Evans, had also overcome a great deal to reach this eventual triumph.

Here's a picture of Kathryn consuming one of said cupcakes:


She is not only a successful fruit farmer in Sussex, she also wins medals at fencing and is an impressive belly-dancer! A publicist's dream, because not content with all that, Kathryn has been determinedly trying to become a published writer of fiction for the last fifteen years.

Her first (of many, I'm sure) YA novels, More of Me, is just published by Usborne and is based on a very unusual premise. Teva is the latest of twelve girls each of whom has been "born" by splitting and emerging from the body of the previous one. Each girl knows this will happen after a year, on her birthday, but the current Teva is determined it is not going to happen to her.

Each Teva takes over the life, the friends, the boyfriend of the one she replaces, which is not much fun for any of them.

The striking cover was designed by Hannah Cobley for Usborne and so admired is Kathryn that innumerable of her Facebook friends celebrated her big day by using the same treatment, thanks to Candy Gourlay, our our profile pictures. This is mine:

So, two great days, to celebrate two great women and their books. Here's to the undaunted (and Daunt's!)