New girls given chance to take the limelight

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THREE debut novelists are to be featured in a special event at the Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival.

The event, Exciting New Voices in Fiction is in the Lochcarron Marquee of Melrose’s Harmony Gardens on Sunday, June 17, at 4.45pm, and shows that the festival, an established showcase for established writers, has not lost sight of its mission to promote new literary talent.

Carol Rifka Brunt, Susan Wooldridge and Kathleen McMahon will discuss the works which have propelled them so meteorically into the limelight.

Festival organisers have announced this week that the first 15 people to reserve tickets for the session (£9, £7 concessions) will receive a free copy of one of the featured books. To take advantage of this offer, quote the word “voices” when booking online or by calling 0844 357 1060.

Susan Wooldridge is one of Britain’s most respected film, television and theatre actresses, perhaps best known for her portrayal of Daphne Manners in The Jewel in the Crown along with starring roles in Kavanagh QC and Poirot.

Her debut novel, The Hidden Dance, has won huge critical acclaim – the writer and playwright Nell Dunn described the story of a young woman escaping the brutality of a failed marriage as “extremely fresh, strong and poignant”.

Set in 1933, it tells of Lily Sutton as she boards a luxury liner for New York and a new life.

Lily is caught between the privileged world she has left behind and a new-found love which has given her strength and courage. A new friendship makes the long journey easier to bear until an old enemy surfaces and Lily must do everything she can to protect those she loves most in the world.

Tell The Wolves I’m Home is the accomplished debut novel of Carol Rifka Brunt, a New Yorker now living in Devon who received a generous Arts Council grant to write the book.

It was public money well spent and it is hardly surprising that the volume, a story about making sense of life after the loss of a loved one, has received rave reviews.

It centres around 14-year-old June Elbus, shy at school and distant from her once inseparable older sister, who finds she can only be herself in the company of her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss.

When he dies of a mysterious illness, June’s life is turned upside down. At the funeral, she notices a strange man lingering beyond the crowd and, a few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot which she recognises from Finn’s apartment and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet.

As the two begin to spend time together, June realises she is not the only one who misses Finn.

Set in New York in the 1980s amid the fear and misinformation about HIV/Aids, Tell The Wolves I’m Home is a tender tale of love lost and found and a poignant portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.

This is How it Ends, the debut novel of Irish journalist Kathleen MacMahon, made headline news when it was bought by her publisher for a six-figure sum and received massive deals in over 20 countries.

Published this weekend in the UK, it tells of the love between Bruno and Addie, two people whose lives collide in the autumn of 2008, just as the world seems caught between the hope and promise of Barrack Obama’s election to the White House and the catastrophic collapse of the global economy.

Bestselling author Maeve Binchy says of the book: “When you have long forgotten many other fictional lovers, there is something about Addie and Bruno, their past and their world, which will not go away.”

McMahon works with Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE, where she reports on major international stories. She is the grand-daughter of the distinguished short story writer Mary Lavin and lives in Dublin.

If the three debutantes represent the new kids on the block, the festival has also assembled some acknowledged literary masters.

Making his first appearance in Melrose will be William Boyd who will talk about his new book Waiting For Sunrise, a plot-twisting novel set in the First World War, in the main festival marquee on Friday, June 15, at 6pm.

Historical novelist Hilary Mantell will discuss her new book Bring Up The Bodies, the sequel to Man Booker prize-winning Wolf Hall, at the same venue on Saturday, June 16, at 6pm.

And Philip Gale, author of the Richard and Judy bestseller Notes from an Exhibition, returns to his beloved Cornish coast for his atmospheric new novel, A Perfectly Good Man, which tells the tale of a tragic suicide and the priest who witnessed it. Gale will be in the Scottish Borders Brewery Marquee on Sunday, June 17, at 6.15pm.