I’m not a great advocate of a ‘dry’ January so it’s great news that we've had more than enough exciting projects at the start of the year to justify the occasional pop of a champagne cork or two…
For starters we’ve had the much vaunted BBC2 serialisation of Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize winners this month, with Wolf Hall, becoming BBC2's highest rated new drama series for a decade. This is hardly surprising, as sales of Mantel’s winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, have exceeded a million copies in their UK editions, since their respective victories in 2009 and 2012. The success shows no sign of slowing down either, with the highly acclaimed theatre productions of both novels arriving on Broadway in April 2015.
Helen Macdonald has also had quite a year. Last November she won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction for her memoir H is for Hawk. This was then one of the top five ‘Books of the Year’ in the Christmas round ups and last week Helen went on to triumph as the overall winner of the Costa Book of the Year.
At the time of her SJ win, Helen said, ‘It’s a particularly deep joy to me that a book that’s about the extraordinary complex relationship between humans and the environment could win a prize like this’. We’re thrilled to see Helen’s continuing success – it’s a wonderful book from an extraordinary woman.
Another extraordinary woman you’ll be hearing more of is the clinical psychologist, Tanya Byron. We’ve been taken on by Pan Macmillan to work with Tanya on her book The Skeleton Cupboardwhich is all about her years of training and the patients she has worked with. It’s filled with wonderful stories which have induced both tears and laughter from everyone here who has read it. Do give it a go - it has the power to change the way so many of us think about mental health.
Another book this month which was timed brilliantly to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death is James MacManus’ Sleep in Peace Tonight. Described by the Sunday Mirror as a ‘heart-rending romance’, it’s a story of high diplomacy, political intrigue and a dangerous love affair set during the fiery nights of the Blitz.
Other cultural highlights of the month included the London Art Fair which attracted almost 25,000 visitors in its five day run with an early Saturday morning photocall which saw the installation of two Edward Paolozzi sculptures ahead of the fair.
Coming up in February is Jewish Book Week (21 February – 1 March). The programme offers a wealth of talks, debates and entertainment covering literature, politics, current affairs, psychology, economics, food and music, along with two special themed series of events ‘Fathers and Daughters’ and ‘The New Yorker’. Speakers will include Man Booker Prize winner, Howard Jacobson, AB Yehoshua, Simon Schama and Helena Kennedy QC, amongst many others. Find out more here.
That’s all for this month - may the Year of the Goat be a happy one for you!