Chapter 8 - Surviving Savannah
We had a terrific weekend last week at the Savannah Book Festival with our two daughters, Carina and Claire. The girls and I (yes they are grown women but will always be girls to their parents) geeked out on authors all day while Dave went fishing in Hilton Head. We stayed, as we do every year, at 17Hundred90 Inn and had two lovely suites. Since I am always an early riser, this is great for me (and for the sleeping Dave also). While I realize that COVID and the lack of employees has hit the hospitality industry very hard, it does seem that all previous services have decreased significantly. This happened in the Sheraton and Aloft Hotels during my Baltimore trips recently and daily service was suspended again in Savannah. Frankly, for me, some of the luxuries of staying in a hotel is not having to make the bed as well as having fresh linens. Sadly, this seems to be a wave of the future.
We ate lunch at Bedford's Savannah in the City Market area, The Grove, Cafe' at City Market, Goosefeathers, The Fitzroy, Funky Brunch, and our perennial favorite, Circa 1875. All were good with some being quieter than others.
But the authors...my heavens they were wonderful! Here is a recap of who we saw and what they said.
Rachel Hawkins - Rachel's latest book The Villa is a twisted mystery. She noted that she has always been fascinated by the story of Mary Shelley and her writing of Frankenstein. In case you don't know the story, Mary was married to Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet. He was involved in many scandals and during the summer of the writing actually fled England to let the latest scandal die down. They went to Switzerland to a villa on Lake Geneva and were accompanied by Mary's step sister Caroline and her lover, Lord Byron, another shocking Brit. Both Byron and Shelley were considered the "rock stars" of their day. Taking that tale, Hawkins spun her "what if" into a murder in the 1970's and added to it two modern day authors who also use the same villa to write their latest books.
Louis Bayard - Bayard has written about what he terms the "gaps" in history although a few of his books are more "what ifs" than gaps. His latest Jackie & Me tells the story of Lem Billings, JFK's best friend who was charged by the Kennedys to woo Jackie for Jack. Bayard does a great job of imagining their relationship and, of course, does the research to back it up. I also picked up his book Courting Mr. Lincoln while at the festival.
Shelby Van Pelt - A debut author with her Jenna's Book Club pick Remarkably Bright Creatures, Shelby Van Pelt was a true delight. She got the idea of a story from a different voice about 7 years ago when given an assignment for a creative writing class. While she rewrote the first three chapters time and again over 7 years, it started to take shape during 2020 when her writing friend and she agreed to plow through their books. Within eight months she had a draft and was lucky enough to get an agent on her first round of cold call letters. This is a wonderful tale of moving forward, unexpected friendships and one very intelligent octopus.
Marcel Theroux - Marcel Theroux's book The Sorcerer of Pyongpeng is a story centered around North Korea. Claire and I mused that perhaps we are so interested in North Korea because it is a dystopian society here and now. The book is about a young boy whose father is given a Dungeons and Dragons Master Book and who experiences difficulties because of it. Theroux regaled us with his trip to North Korea and how surreal it was at the time. The trip, his own experience playing Dungeons and Dragons, and the North Korean refugees in his town all combined to produce an interesting and scary love story.
Dani Shapiro - I loved Sharpiro's book Inheritance, a memoir, wherein she discovers her own parentage. Signal Fires, her latest novel, also talks about family secrets and the damage done to our psyches by not acknowledging or talking about them. Dani indicated that unknowingly her own body of work previous to her DNA test was about family secrets. While this latest book has that theme, it is fresh and new.
So those are the authors I saw at the Savannah Book Festival this year. I enjoyed all the books I read and the talks I heard. Now I can hardly wait for next year!