A Fiction Reading. with Sheila Llewellyn and Andrew Meehan, Crossways Festival review by Pat Byrne
Crossways Festival Irish/Scottish, Literary and Cultural Festival, Glasgow, 2018
A Fiction Reading. with Sheila Llewellyn and Andrew Meehan. 11th April 2018 at The Tron Theatre
I always enjoy discovering new authors so Crossways Festival provided an excellent opportunity in the intimate and atmospheric Victorian Bar at The Tron Theatre.
Sheila Llewellyn ‘Walking Wounded’
First up was Sheila Llewellyn, an Englishwoman of Welsh heritage, who lives in Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. Prior to completing a PhD in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry in Belfast, she worked as a specialist in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
‘Walking Wounded’ is her first novel, where she draws extensively on her knowledge of PTSD in painting the character of David Reece, a young veteran, whose mental health deteriorates after his return from war in Burma. Sheila explained that in her writing she addresses civil social conflict and likes to examine how issues and decisions made resonate with ordinary people.
She read extracts from her book dealing with David’s deterioration first his petty violence against things building to more serious violence against people. The description of David’s turmoil as he destroyed his friend’s bookshop demonstrated the vivid imagery, emotion and clarity of Llewellyn’s writing.
Following his mental breakdown we see David admitted as a patient into Northfield Military Psychiatric Hospital – ‘the hospital is a character in itself’ – and provides the backdrop to David’s experience and treatment by the troubled young psychotherpist, Daniel Carter. Daniel witnessed, and reluctantly assisted in the first use of leucotomy (lobotomy) and is haunted by this memory. The book goes into detail regarding how this procedure is carried out. It also deals with ‘deep ethical issues’ and the meaning of the Hippocratic Oath ‘first do no harm.’
Shying away from the horrors of the use of surgery as a cure, Daniel introduces therapy in working with his patients. This includes ‘The Art Hut’, where Sergeant Bradbury, an artist, facilitates the social interaction of patients and the opportunity to share their experiences, horror and humour. ‘Where was God in the Blitz? – was always a hot topic’.
‘Llewellyn’s considerable gifts keep us gripped to the end even when the pain described becomes almost unbearable. The beauty and skill of her own writing is the best testament to her belief in the redemptive power of art.’ Martina Evans, The Irish Times
Buy the book at Hodder and Stoughton
Script writer and former Head of Development at Irish Film, Andrew Hand is a Dubliner with Scottish parents, who has recently published his debut novel ‘One Star Awake’. He read the first chapeter of the book, which has a fabulous opening, immediately drawing the reader into the world of Eva Hand ‘It began with my sweet tooth…’.
Andrew explained that the book was ‘story driven’, which I took to mean that the emphasis was on plot rather than character. However, much as he left me wanting to know more I think he’s selling himself a bit short as the characters sound unusual and fascinating. I felt his orientation into the kitchen where Eva works in Paris and the detailed descriptions echo his cinematic background – ‘a blaze of psoriasis at his hairline’,
The characters, chef Ségo and sommelier Danie, and their relationship with the fragile Eva ‘as substantial as a ribbon’ were intriguing and I got so caught up listening that I forgot to take notes.
‘One Star Awake’ was immediately placed on my ‘to buy list’ and has now been ordered.
‘An acute psychological study that rips along with the pace of a thriller, One Star Awake is also very funny, deliciously written, and deeply atmospheric in its Parisian setting. Hugely addictive.’ – Kevin Barry, author of Beatlebone
An added bonus at this event was finding the charming and gifted poet Stewart Sanderson introducing the writers.
And I enjoyed a chat with Chris Agee, Editor of Irish Pages, who has done a marvellous job pulling together the programme for Crossways, Irish/Scottish, Literary and Cultural Festival, which continues untile 14 April, 2018.
Pat Byrne, April, 2018
- The Scottish Witchfinder by Jacqueline Smith
- John Maclean, Hero of Red Clydeside by Henry Bell
- Hollie McNish OranMor
- Three Kinds of Kissing by Helen Lamb Book Launch
- I Remember It Well Symposium, Paisley
- After He Died Book Launch, Michael J Malone
- Stuart Paterson, Write on Cue!
- An Evening with Nawal Slemiah, Project Cafe Glasgow
- Bloody Scotland, 2018
- STAGE Multimedia Exhibition
- Stuart Cosgrove, ‘Harlem 69’ Book Launch
- Richard Holloway, Creative Conversatons
- Creative Conversations, Monday Lunchtimes, University of Glasgow Chapel
- All The Time We Thought We Had, Gordon Darroch Waterstones
- Cheeky Besoms Speakeasy and Open Mic Night Glasgow
- She’s En Scene Women’s Film Screening and Discussion, Glasgow
- With Their Best Clothes On, New Writing Scotland Launch
- The Big Chair – Autumn Voices – Robin Lloyd-Jones
- An Evening with Charles McGarry, Waterstones Sauchiehall Street
- Public Lecture of the Publishing Scotland’s International Fellows Glasgow – review by Mary Irvine