Bookslam blog for Emylia Hall

Blog: Book Slam with Bond

Stirred, not shaken...

13 Nov 2013

Headline author Emylia Hall, author of A HEART BENT OUT OF SHAPE, on Slamming it with 007's latest author.

In a year that’s included Budapest’s European First Novel Festival, Fowey Festival in the heart of Daphne du Maurier country, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival, it was my last event of 2013 that turned out to be my favourite of all. The other Sunday I took part in Book Slam at The Tabernacle in Notting Hill, along with William Boyd, musician Ana Silvera, and poet and playwright Inua Ellams. Yes, I did say William Boyd. He of the latest Bond novel, Solo. He of Any Human Heart, which is only one of my favourite books of all time. Fine company, indeed.

Book Slam was founded around ten years ago by award-winning writer Patrick Neate. The Guardian’s Robert McCrum says ‘Book Slam describes itself as “London’s leading literary shindig” and it is’. Meanwhile Simon Armitage reckons it’s ‘music hall meets night club meets book club’. There are a ton of live literature events out there these days, a very different landscape to when Book Slam started out, and many have their own distinctive qualities. All to the good, I say. There’s still something brilliantly pure about the simple act of being read to - it’s how most of us first experienced stories, after all. Among the Book Slam crowd something of a campfire spirit prevails, rapt faces listening in the dark, creating an experience that’s both solitary and intimately shared. Then a musician comes on, then a poet, a comedian. It’s this combination that makes Book Slam unique. The floor rips up with laughter. The appreciation is raucous. These nights have always attracted a band of stellar supporters, the likes of Dave Eggers, Zadie Smith, David Nicholls, Hari Kunzru. Earlier this year Caitlin Moran and Hadley Freeman shared a stage, and later this month you can catch Chuck Palahniuk. Then there are the newer faces, which Team Book Slam are always keen to champion too. That’s how I found myself at The Tabernacle with William Boyd last week. Trying not to be too sycophantic I told William how happy and slightly amazed I was to be sharing a billing with him, and he twinkled (he did!) and said ‘that’s Book Slam’.

So last week then, 007 and me. The tables are laid out cabaret-style, and the drinks are flowing. I’ve done a few events by now and I’m starting to grow sort of used to a formula. Only the set-up here is a little bit different. No panel, no Q&A, no other author sitting reassuringly alongside… just you, a microphone and a spotlight – quite an exposing combination, which probably adds to the allure for the audience. The last time I was faced with a similar sort of thing, at an Amnesty event in Edinburgh, I couldn’t read for crying, but that’s another story (one you can read here, if you really want to). Anyway, I took a breath and pictured the audience naked, and let me tell you, the Notting Hill crowd that night were a fine-looking bunch. I read two passages from A Heart Bent Out of Shape and told the story that led to the writing of one of them, involving a disastrous haircut, an elderly man, and une tarte magnifique. All in all, I had a ball, and the best part was that when I was through, I got to sit back and enjoy the rest of the show – Ana Silvera’s haunting rhythms and amazing musicality, William Boyd radiating inimitable venerability as he told us about his special recipe for salad dressing, and Inua Ellam’s impeccable hosting, rounding off the night with three of his poems to massive applause.

 This very month, five years ago, I took a course with the Arvon Foundation, and was lucky enough to have Book Slam’s founding father Patrick as one of my tutors. As Inua said, ‘feels like you’ve come full circle’, and it did. I’m a sentimental thing at the best of times, but this knowledge definitely added to my pleasure in taking part. So… thank you, Patrick, and to Book Slam cohort Elliott Jack, too. It was a real treat.

If all this has tickled your fancy, it happens roughly monthly, at places like The Tabernacle, The Clapham Grand, and The Flyover, and even sometimes here in Brizzle, with Nikesh Shukla at the helm. There’s a brilliant podcast, a YouTube channel, and two volumes of short story collections, published in the last two years. They’re also branching into ventures of the culinary variety, with School Dinners, which sounds immeasurably more nourishing (mind and body) than any school dinner I’ve ever had. Book Slam’s original philosophy was to ‘promote the diversity of contemporary literature, support writers, and break down the boundaries between ‘literary’ and ‘popular’ culture’. I think ‘make it fun’ was probably in there somewhere too. Are they still living up to it? In the spirit of Bond, I’ll defer to Carly Simon…. “Nobody Does It Better…”

Emylia Hall

Emylia Hall was born in 1978 and grew up in the Devon countryside. She is the author of The Book of Summers, which was a Richard & Judy Summer Book Club pick in 2012, A Heart Bent Out of Shape, The Sea Between Us and The Thousand Lights Hotel. She lives in Bristol with her husband, the writer Robin Etherington, and their young son.
Headline Review

A Heart Bent Out of Shape

By Emylia Hall

From the author of The Book of Summers, picked for Richard & Judy's 2012 summer book club, comes the story of a first love, a terrible tragedy, a snow-filled paradise; a year that will never be forgotten.

For Hadley Dunn, life so far has been uneventful - no great loves, no searing losses. But that's before she decides to spend a year studying in the glittering Swiss city of Lausanne, a place that feels alive with promise. Here Hadley meets Kristina, a beautiful but elusive Danish girl, and the two quickly form the strongest of bonds. Yet one November night, as the first snows of winter arrive, tragedy strikes.

Hadley, left reeling and guilt-stricken, beings to lean on the only other person to whom she feels close, her American Literature professor Joel Wilson. But as the pair try to uncover the truth of what happened that night, their tentative friendship heads into forbidden territory. And before long a line is irrevocably crossed, everything changes, and two already complicated lives take an even more dangerous course...

As tender and insightful as it is gripping... the sheer joy of being young and alive is shining out on every page

Praise for Emylia Hall:


'Enchanting and vivid... an amazing debut'

Beautifully nuancedFantastically evocative and sun-drenched'A compelling coming-of-age story with a superb twist''[An] emotive novel not to be missed''[A] crystalline tale... A novel that glints with passion, loss and doubt''A thriller, coming-of-age story and love letter to Switzerland, all in one''Hall confirms her talent for romantic but original prose''A touching coming-of-age story''A love affair with Lausanne... the descriptions are highly evocative and a joy to read''The writing is so pretty you'll fall in love with the setting... We guarantee you'll be saving up your pennies and catching a flight to Switzerland before you're halfway through'From the author of The Book of Summers, picked for Richard & Judy's 2012 summer book club, comes the story of a first love, a terrible tragedy, a snow-filled paradise; a year that will never be forgotten.Emylia was born in 1978 and grew up in the Devon countryside, the daughter of an English artist and a Hungarian quilt-maker. After studying English & Related Literature at the universities of York and Lausanne, she spent five years working in a London ad agency, before moving to the French Alps. It was there that she began to write. Emylia now lives in Bristol with her husband, the comic-book writer and children's author, Robin Etherington, and young son. She is the author of The Book of Summers, which was a Richard & Judy Summer Book club pick in 2012, A Heart Bent Out of Shape and The Sea Between Us.Emylia Hall's previous book THE BOOK OF SUMMERS was brilliantly received by the trade and readers alike. It recieved fantastic reviews and was voted best Richard & Judy bookclub pick for summer 2012Emylia combines beautiful writing with a big sweeping story, and she will appeal to fans of Esther Freud, Alexandra Fuller and Patrick Gale.
Headline Review

The Book of Summers

By Emylia Hall

Beth Lowe has been sent a parcel.

Inside is a letter informing her that her long-estranged mother has died, and a scrapbook Beth has never seen before. Entitled The Book of Summers, it's stuffed with photographs and mementos complied by her mother to record the seven glorious childhood summers Beth spent in rural Hungary.
It was a time when she trod the tightrope between separated parents and two very different countries; her bewitching but imperfect Hungarian mother and her gentle, reticent English father; the dazzling house of a Hungarian artist and an empty-feeling cottage in deepest Devon. And it was a time that came to the most brutal of ends the year Beth turned sixteen.

Since then, Beth hasn't allowed herself to think about those years of her childhood. But the arrival of The Book of Summers brings the past tumbling back into the present; as vivid, painful and vital as ever.

'A charming debut novel''A vivid coming-of-age story''A compelling coming-of-age story with a superb twist''Emylia Hall creates an enchanting and vivid picture of Beth's summers in rural Hungary... It's an addictive read and an amazing debut for Emylia Hall''Fab debut about a woman reliving the summers she spent in rural Hungary''Heartfelt and evocative... all we need now is for summer to finally arrive''Fantastically evocative and sun-drenched with a twist, it's guaranteed a place on our summer holiday reading list''Enchantingly evocative'The perfect summer read from a glorious new voice in commercial literary fictionEmylia was born in 1978 and grew up in the Devon countryside, the daughter of an English artist and a Hungarian quilt-maker. After studying English & Related Literature at the universities of York and Lausanne, she spent five years working in a London ad agency, before moving to the French Alps. It was there that she began to write. Emylia now lives in Bristol with her husband, the comic-book writer and children's author, Robin Etherington, and young son. She is the author of The Book of Summers, which was a Richard & Judy Summer Book club pick in 2012, A Heart Bent Out of Shape and The Sea Between Us.We will be doing everything we can do to make this THE summer read of 2012. THE BOOK OF SUMMERS has it all - a great title, a beautiful package and, most importantly, an unforgettable story. We will build a cohensive word-of-mouth campaign, starting with the distribution of thousands of proofs across the trade and mediaTHE BOOK OF SUMMERS has everything you could possibly want in a summer read: it has real heart, a fantastic twist and a wonderfully redemptive ending. And it's pure escapism - the descriptions of Hungary are so achingly vivid you're transported their instantly.Emylia writes beautifully and captures the coming-of-age experience perfectly. She will appeal to fans of Esther Freud, Alexandra Fuller and Patrick Gale.