Ten Days in May
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Claire Tomalin is one of the leading lights of English letters — a known master of biography, and erstwhile literary editor of New Statesman and Sunday Times. As an editor, she has assembled and collaborated with a who’s who of English writers, including Julian Barnes, Clive James, Martin Amis, Hilary Spurling, John Carey and Paul Theroux. She shares a home and a marriage with playwright, novelist and fellow English literary icon Michael Frayn.
Tomalin’s insightful, award-winning biographies portray subjects such as Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Pepys, Jane Austen, Katherine Mansfield and Mary Wollstonecraft. Of her subjects, she explains that they each ‘started with a struggle and none had privileged backgrounds’.
‘Why I write biographies and why people read them is to get inside someone else’s skin,’ she has said. ‘One life is not enough.’
Yet part of her skill as a biographer is to identify fragments of her own experience — with its own struggles and disappointments — to enrich and deepen her portraits of others. Her career as a writer and editor has been punctuated and propelled by distinct turning points: the loss of her first husband and two of her children, the birth of her youngest child with spina bifida — as well as career peaks at the New Statesman and Sunday Times, awards for her books, her romance with and marriage to Frayn, and rigorous relationships with her first-class literary peers.
In one rare night at the Wheeler Centre, one of world literature’s most accomplished biographers will discuss the joys and struggles of her own life and work, in conversation with Toni Jordan.
Claire Tomalin has worked in publishing and journalism all her life, becoming literary editor at the New Statesman and then The Sunday Times. Her many books have included The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, which won the Whitbread Award for First Book in 1974, Shelley and His World, Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life and The Invisible Woman, which won the NCR Book Award in 1991, the Hawthornden Prize, and the 1990 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography.
Toni Jordan is the author of five novels. The international bestseller Addition was a Richard and Judy Bookclub pick and was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Fall Girl was published internationally and has been optioned for film, and Nine Days was awarded Best Fiction at the Indie Awards, was shortlisted for the ABIA Best General Fiction award, and was named in Kirkus Review’s top 10 Historical Novels of 2013. Our Tiny, Useless Hearts was shortlisted for the Voss Literary Prize 2017 and longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award 2018. Toni’s latest book is the literary mystery The Fragments. She lives in Melbourne.
This May, join us as we welcome guests from Sydney Writers’ Festival to Melbourne.
You’ll meet genre-hopping writer Jonathan Lethem, find a clearer path to happiness with Paul Dolan, explore counterinsurgency and ethnography with David Kilcullen and Robert Manne, and catch up with international children’s publishing sensation David Walliams — often dubbed ‘the new Roald Dahl’.
Plus: hear from literary magician David Mitchell, delve into various beginnings with legendary playwright and novelist Michael Frayn, learn about the turning points in master biographer Claire Tomalin’s own life, and examine textual intimacy with Booker-winning poet and author Ben Okri.
Presented in partnership with Sydney Writers’ Festival.