Event review: Bibliotherapy

On International Women’s Day 2018 I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a literary event held at the art-filled Kings Place in London during Jewish Book Week.

Chaired by Alex Clark, Bibliotherapy saw Viv Groskop and Laura Freeman engage in light-hearted but also meaningful conversation about books and the role that we, as readers, expect them to fulfil.

Viv Groskop – writer and comedian – talked about her new book, The Anna Karenina Fix, and read an excerpt from it that had many people in the room discreetly giggling. With a foreign-sounding last name and no Internet to use for her research as a child in the 70s, she decided at a young age that she was Russian and she proceeded to find out about ‘her people’ by exploring the Russian classics! Her book charts the life lessons that she has learnt in this process and I thank the Internet for not having come too soon or this book wouldn’t have been written!

Laura Freeman – writer and art critic – is the author of The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite. For her, reading became a form of escapism as anorexia relegated her to her bedroom in her teenage years, too weak to go out. Books transported her to other places and, with time, they gave her the confidence to try out new foods and be reacquainted with previously dismissed dishes as she sought to recreate fictional feasts and culinary delights. Having heard an excerpt from her book, I look forward to reading it and, who knows, to become more inspired in the kitchen.

Whether we’re seeking health or identity, do we only turn to books when we feel lonely and broken? How do we keep the ability to be open to books after adolescence? The three women on stage offered their insights to answer these and other questions posed by the audience. Viv Groskop pointed out that it’s not important why we go to books: what matters is what we get from them and what we feel. Also key, explained Laura Freeman, is to keep the passion alive by reading outside of our comfort zone. I couldn't agree more with both of them.

The conversation touched many other topics, such as book covers, inspiring female writers and books that made an impression on them as children. Plus, it’s not every day that you find yourself starstruck sitting a few chairs away from Tracy Chevalier, who just happened to be in the audience!

It was an exquisite evening and I feel privileged to have been part of it.


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