Andrea Leadsom gave us quite a laugh early on in July. A few days after the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen‘s death, the leader of the Commons was attempting to praise the author, who will feauture on the new £10 banknotes that will go into circulation in September. Following comments from the shadow Commons leader, Valerie Vaz, praising leading female figures, she said:
“I would just add one other great lady to that lovely list, who I am delighted to join in celebrating, and that’s that of Jane Austen, who will feature on the new £10 note, which I think is one of our greatest living authors.”
When confronted with laughter, she quickly corrected her statement as follows: “Greatest ever authors, and I think it’s fantastic that at last we are starting to recognise – well I think many of us probably wish she were still living – but I absolutely share the sentiment.”
After the literary slip, she was mocked on Twitter and even trended on the social media website for a little while. Among the tweeters was bookseller Waterstones that was having a lot of fun with Andra Leadsom’s mistake.
June had barely started when the literary world lost an icon. Poet and novelist Helen Dunmore died of cancer at the age of 64. During her career she wrote 12 novels, including Orange Prize winner A Spell of Winter, and 10 poetry collections. Fellow writers Antony Beevor, Tracy Chevalier and Jonathan Coe among others paid tribute to Dunmore by praising her writing skills and her kind and generous personality.
Helen Dunmore had only recently revealed her poor diagnosis and had been realistic and acceptive about it.
“The ground beneath my feet has never been more uncertain, but what is sure is that the ambulance has already called and there is no vagueness about my mortality. I may be ill but I’m also warm and sheltered, surrounded by family and friends and with medical help a phone call away.
I think of a young man or woman in the Middle East who has lived less than a third of the years that I’ve enjoyed and is now alone in a cell, tortured, condemned to death, silenced and very likely denied even a funeral.”
June has also been quite the month for literary awards. After weeks of speculation and a strong shortlist to choose from the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was awarded to Naomi Alderman‘s fourth novel The Power. Many readers had predicted a victory for Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien or the much appreciated Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo, but the judges favoured Alderman’s brilliantly imagined dystopia, her big ideas and her fantastic imagination.
It isn’t the first time that Naomi Alderman is awarded a prestigious prize. Her debut Disobedience won the 2006 Orange Award for New Writers.
Credits: Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction
Credits: Penguin Random House
May has flown by already and luckily it hasn’t been all Donald Trump and Brexit in the news. Stuff happened in the world that really matters too: the world of books. Obviously, I can’t give you a summary of everything that happened in May; you’d still be reading this blog post by the end of June. So, here’s a compilation of newsworthy stories I found interesting.
Joanna Trollope (Credits: unknown)
J.K. Rowling (Credits: unknown)
The month kicked off with a sneer towards J.K. Rowling. Not – as you would expect – by Twitter trolls picking a fight over her political views. This time she was criticized by fellow author Joanna Trollope. According to the latter, social media are not the kind of platforms for a writer to express his views.