Something a little different today, to celebrate this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival. Read on for info on the Festival and a review of one of the books being celebrated there.
Cheltenham Literature Festival is the world’s first literature festival, leading the way in celebrating the written and spoken word, presenting the best new voices in fiction and poetry alongside literary greats and high-profile speakers, while inspiring over 9,000 school children with a love of books through its Literature for Schools programme.
Cheltenham Literature Festival is part of Cheltenham Festivals – a charity delivering a pioneering year-round educational programme culminating in four internationally-acclaimed Jazz, Science, Music and Literature Festivals. Cheltenham Festivals creates experiences that bring joy, spark curiosity, connect communities and inspire change.
The Festival has an accompanying year-round programme of education and talent development outreach including its flagship Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils project which has rolled out nationally, enabling teachers and their pupils to rediscover the joy of reading. The other programmes include: the award-winning Beyond Words, a creative writing project working with vulnerable young people unable to access mainstream education in Gloucestershire, Words That Burn, a national human rights poetry project created in partnership with Amnesty International and Write Now, a unique mentoring, workshop and networking project that nurtures young people’s creative writing abilities.
One of the writers featured at the festival is crime writer Mick Herron, who will be at an event celebrating the life and career of John Le Carrè. Herron is sometimes seen as Le Carrè’s literary heir and his most recent title is Slough House, which I was kindly sent to review below.
Slough House – the crumbling office building to which failed spies, the ‘slow horses’, are banished – has been wiped from secret service records.
Reeling from recent losses in their ranks, the slow horses are worried they’ve been pushed further into the cold, and fatal accidents keep happening.
With a new populist movement taking a grip on London’s streets, the aftermath of a blunder by the Russian secret service that left a British citizen dead, and the old order ensuring that everything’s for sale to the highest bidder, the world’s an uncomfortable place for those deemed surplus to requirements. The wise move would be to find a safe place and wait for the troubles to pass.
But the slow horses aren’t famed for making wise decisions.
My thoughts: this was very enjoyable, with lots of intrigue and conspiracies to keep the characters occupied in chasing around London and out into the countryside after a pair of Russian assassins, who are chasing after Jackson Lamb’s team and he’s not happy about it.
Diana Taverner might be First Desk at M15 but she’s not as in control as she thinks, stupidly getting entangled with dangerous men who play the political long game and far better than she can. She’s in it up to her neck and only Lamb and his band of misfits can sort things out, whatever their reputation as slow horses suggests.
Jackson Lamb is probably the unhealthiest spy around, overweight, chain smoking, perpetually drunk and living on a diet of terrible takeaways, he’s hardly the suave, sophisticated ideal, but he’s survived a long time in this world and under the dishevelled appearance is a top notch brain. Same goes in many ways for the rest of his team – they might not be the ones pipped for bright futures but they’ve got skills and are innocuous enough that they don’t look like much of a threat.
I’ve only read one other book in this series, a while ago, but the writing is very clever and the plot gripping, just the right amount of convoluted. I might just have to check the rest of the series out, see what else Lamb and his slow horses have been up to.
This ends with question marks over the future for the team and indeed the life of one member. Will they be allowed to stay at Slough House, quietly doing boring busy work for MI5 or will there be changes coming?
*parts of this blog post were created using a press release but the opinions expressed in the book review are my own.*