I had the privilege to be invited to the second annual Penguin Blogger’s Night which happened yesterday. Having been last year, I knew it would be a great evening, and I made all the arrangements so that I could go.

It was held in the fifth floor bar at Waterstones Piccadilly – amazingly I’d never been in that particular bookshop before! It was lovely to see many familiar faces Rachel, Naomi,Hayley, David, Jess – also with hubby Chris this time, Kim, and Simon T. Luckily for us, DGR aka Lynn who I’ve only met once before for a few minutes but feel as if I’ve known her for ages, and John Self, whom I’ve not met before were there too, and it was great to talk with them too.

Of course we were really there for the free books to meet the Penguin authors and hear about their latest books, and the roll call was tremendous …

Naomi Alderman opened off the proceedings with a reading from The Liar’s Gospel, a retelling of the life and death of Jesus Christ from the pov of the Pharisees – the orthodox Jews of the time. She shocked us all with the opening pages which describe the daily sacrifice of a lamb.

Marina Lewycka then read from Various Pets Alive and Dead which promises to be a very funny novel about modern values and families.  Her extract about the day when Marcus met Doro at an anti-Vietnam rally in Grosvenor Square in the 1960s had us all chuckling.

Greg Baxter read a stunningly bleak passage from his novel The Apartment. It may have been bleak, but it was good and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

Jenny McVeigh read from her novel The Fever Tree.  Set in 1800 in the diamond mines of Africa, based on diaries from the time about a smallpox epidemic that Cecil Rhodes supressed.

Robert MacFarlane was the only non-fiction author there. His new book The Old Ways is about ancient tracks where he follows the feet of those who used them.  Just because it’s non-fiction, doesn’t mean that prose can’t be spell-binding – and his certainly was.

Amanda Hodgkinson read from the beginning of her book 22 Britannia Road, in which a Polish ‘housewife’ and her young son are travelling to Britain to be reunited with her husband after WWII ends.  I’m looking forward to reading this book very much, and had a long chat with Amanda who was lovely.

Nat Segnit had us all in fits with a reading from his debut novel Pub Walks in Underhill Country – which masquerades as a tourist guide to walking in the West Midlands, but soon gets taken over by the story of Graham Underhill and his failing marriage to Sunita.

Nell Leyshon comes from Glastonbury, and told us how she’s never got over having to move away – just five miles.  This is what happens to 15 year old Mary in 1851 when she is sent to work for the Vicar in The Colour of Milk.

Elif Shafak was by far the most beautiful woman in the room, and her lovely accented tones beguiled and then shocked us, as she read from the start of her novel Honour in which a young Kurdish woman is waiting for her brother, a murderer, to be released from prison.  Another to really look forward to reading.

Tom Bullough read from Konstantin, his third novel, set in Russia, which has a wonderful fold-out cover). It tells the story of a boy who goes on to be a great scientist – the first man to work out how man might conquer space.  Russia and space – two things guaranteed to get this book put to the top of my reading list (once the TBR double dare is over).  Tom and I got into a great chat, about being a parent and the Mabinogion amongst other things. Funnily enough, Simon S reviewed Bullough’s second novel just the other week, and I think he is going to be an author to watch.

Nikita Lalwani read from The Village, her second novel about a British team making a film about a open prison in India – a village where all the inmates are murderers.

James Kelman, the Booker Prize-winning author of How late it was, how late, was the last author to read.  Jim, as he introduced himself to me during the interval was charming and twinkly, yet the moment he began to read from Mo Said She Was Quirky, he was deadly serious and into the mindset of his main character, Helen, an ordinary young woman with whom we spend 24 hrs.

What a line-up!  I wish I’d taken more photos – but I kept forgetting.  And did I mention there was a table full of free books?  I came away with a bag full for which I’m extremely grateful.

Many thanks to Joe, Lija and all the Penguin team for organising everything. 

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