What could be more appropriate for the festival that is home to the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction than to have invited Paula McLain, a rising star of this genre of fiction. Love and Ruin tells the story of Martha Gellhorn’s marriage to the great American novelist, Ernest Hemingway. Herself a brave and immensely talented journalist, one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century, Gellhorn had – also appropriately – For Whom the Bell Tolls dedicated to her, Hemingway’s epic novel of the Spanish Civil War.
Unjustly famous for jumping the gun with the name of the winner of 2017’s Great British Bake Off, Prue Leith has also had a glittering career in the food industry. Leith’s Restaurant was the first Michelin starred London eatery to be owned and run by a woman and it fed The Beatles, Lulu, Julie Christie and Warren Beatty and the Attenborough Brothers. Prue also started Leith’s School of Food and Wine, was a director of British Rail, The Halifax Building Society and many other companies – all long before she ever met Paul Hollywood. Her amazing story is in a new and updated autobiography, appropriately entitled Relish. But don’t ask her who is in line to win the 2018 Bake Off.
Rivalling Paula McLain, Natasha Solomons is also a wonderfully talented author of historical fiction. To sit on bookshelves alongside her bestselling The Gallery of Vanished Husbands and Mr Rosenblum’s List, she has now brought out House of Gold. The book is set on the eve of the First World War and tells the story of the Goldbaums, confidantes of bankers and emperors. Its influence reaches right across Europe but a divide opens between the English and Austrian branches of this powerful family.
And by no means finally, the inimitable Carol Klein is returning to Melrose to talk about Making a Garden: Successful Gardening by Nature’s Rules. Hailed as encyclopaedically knowledgeable, excellent and no-nonsense, this beautiful book even prompted festival director Alistair Moffat to take up gardening and last week he harvested the first crop of new potatoes. They were planted and tended with Carol’s advice, and he has also converted an unused conservatory into a greenhouse. She is a truly inspirational gardener.
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