Writers in Conversation: Tracy Chevalier, Nikita Lalwani and Stephanie Scott

Apr 1, 2021 09:21 · 14043 words · 66 minute read

good evening everyone i’m liz jolly chief librarian of the british library and i’d like to welcome you on behalf of the library to this evening’s event writers in conversation shortly you’ll be hearing from tonight’s event chair the journalist yvette huddleston and the authors tracy chevalier nikita lalwani and stephanie scott they’ll be reading from their latest works discussing their books and their own experiences and how they chime with the themes and figures featured in the major british library exhibition unfinished business the fight for women’s rights from bodily autonomy and the right to education to self-expression and protest unfinished business explores how feminist activism in the uk has its roots in the complex history of women’s rights unfinished business is a landmark program for the british library including an exhibition at our St Pancras site in london a digital programme of events and podcasts a new book a new learning website and pop-up displays in public libraries across the uk as someone with a lifelong interest in women’s history i’m really excited about this exhibition writers in conversation is part of a wider series of unfinished business online events in november that have been developed in partnership with leeds libraries leeds libraries has long been a partner with the british library through initiatives including the living knowledge network and business and iep center national network and we’re delighted to be working with them on this program we had originally intended tonight’s event to take place in person at leeds central library we’ve had to adapt our plans due to Covid-19 but we’re pleased that we can still welcome these authors and you in the audience this evening both in leeds and around the world our unfinished business events in leeds are part of the british library’s growing culture and learning programme in west yorkshire the leeds region is the location of one of the british library’s two sites which has operated at boston spa near wetherby for more than 50 years and which is now home to around 70 percent of the national collection we’re now also growing our public engagement in this area as part of a wider program of increased investment locally we’re pleased that this event can contribute to leedy’s rich cultural scene during these challenging times i hope you enjoy the event and i look forward to hearing from the speakers i’ll now hand you over to andrea ellison chief librarian of leeds libraries so thank you very much liz and i’d just like to begin by echoing liz’s words of welcome and say how delighted we are that you’re all able to join us for this evening’s event so i’ve been in these libraries now for just over three years and one of the things i love about my job is the opportunity we have in leeds to work in partnership with the british library and we work with the british library on a number of collaborations and the living knowledge network as liz just mentioned is one of those partnerships the living knowledge network really helps us to explore develop and promote our collections and we’re especially pleased to be working on this latest collaboration on finished business leeds has a strong history of women’s activism and we have in the city today a real commitment to ensuring that young girls and women achieve their potential now inevitably um our plans for our program of events has had to change somewhat over the past few months but we have now curated a virtual exhibition which really features stories of inspirational women particularly women from the city as well as showcasing items from our collections that connect to the wider history of women’s rights and then we were thinking about speakers and authors to invite to be part of our program and i immediately thought of tracy chevalier i had recently been to the edinburgh book festival and i had been lucky enough to see tracy talking about her novel a single thread and it was when i was there at that event that i learned that actually the archive which tracy had used to research her novel was in fact based at the university of leeds and so it was this local connection as well as the detail in which tracy explores women’s experiences in her novels that we felt made her an ideal choice of speaker and we’re delighted that the british library has been able to facilitate this for us but tonight not only are we joined by tracy chevalier we’re also joined by nikita lalwani and stephanie scott who will be talking and reading from their novels before joining a panel um discussing how the themes in their novels connect with the wider themes of unfinished business so i’d just like to say thank you once again for joining us this evening i very much hope you enjoy the event and i’m now going to hand over to our chair for the evening yvette hudson thank you hello everyone i’m really happy to be here and to welcome you to this event i’m going to introduce our fantastic panel to start with so first of all we have tracy chevalier who was born in washington dc and has been based in london since 1984.

um tracy is a historical novelist the author of ten novels um her first the virgin blue was published in 1997 and her breakthrough second novel the girl with the pearl earring was published in 1999 and became an international bestseller it sold over five million copies worldwide and it was made into an oscar and bafta nominated film in 2003 starring scarlett johansson and colin firth tracy’s other novels include at the edge of the orchard remarkable creatures and the last runaway and her most recent a single thread which we’ll be talking about this evening was published last year nikita lalwani was born in rajasthan and raised in cardiff her debut novel gifted about a young girl maths prodigy was published in 2007 it was long listed for the booker prize shortlisted for the costa first novel award and won the desmond elliott prize for fiction her second novel the village set in an open prison in rural india came out in 2012 and won a jerwood fiction uncovered award her third novel you people set in contemporary her third novel you people set in contemporary london was published in april this year and it’s already been optioned for television i think um by world productions the creators of line of duty and the bodyguard so watch this space on that and stephanie scott is a singaporean british writer who was born and raised in southeast asia what’s left of me is yours published earlier this year is her debut novel it’s won the Jerwood arbonne prize for prose fiction and the a.

m heath prize and was runner-up in the brig bought brit port prize peggy chapman andrews award what’s left of me is yours has been listed by the observer as one of its top 10 literary debuts for 2020 and i would agree with that so we will be hearing from each of the authors who will be reading from and talking about their books and we’ll also be discussing some of the wider themes of unfinished business the fight for women’s rights there will be time for questions from you the audience and you can submit your questions in the question box below at any time during the course of the event and we will put selected questions to the panel towards the end also just to mention that you can use the menu above to visit the library’s bookshop give us any feedback that you may have and also to make a donation right so if we could start with you tracy um a single thread um fantastic novel um it’s it’s set in 1932 um and it kind of it explores one of the many kind of sad um consequences of the losses of the first world war um and um it deals with um i’ll use this phrase the surplus women which is uh pretty um unflattering coughs excuse me unflattering phrase but could you just explain to us first of all what what that means sure um it was a it was a label that k was brought um came up through the press uh newspapers in 1921 a census was taken in britain and it was discovered that there were almost two million more women than men as a result primarily of the losses during world war one and the the newspapers jumped all over this and said oh this is a disaster it’s going to be a social problem these women are a problem um and their surplus surplus to requirement um uh so a lot of women who might have expected to marry um weren’t going to and what were they going to do this was a society that was set up for women expecting that women would marry and have families so there was very little access to higher education very little access to careers other than teaching nursing um and being a clerk and these didn’t pay very well so the women were the surplus women were reliant on their families um to support them and also they tended to live at home they often were expected to look after the parents as they grew older and it was a pretty grim existence for uh unmarried women at that time um and when i read about this i really wanted to create a character a heroine who was a surplus woman who actually managed to create a an independent and happy life for herself right so we have this fantastic essential character who’s called violet speedwell which is a brilliant name um she is in her late 30s isn’t she when we meet her she’s 38 she’s still grieving the loss of both her fiance and one of her brothers during the first world war um she’s been living with her her parents in southampton as you say she’d be expected to just kind of stay there with with her parents um but after her father dies she finds it very difficult to continue living with her very overbearing mother so she she makes this she she makes a brave decision yeah yeah um at the time time of going to go live in in winchester and that was quite a courageous and fairly controversial thing to do wouldn’t it have been yes yes um she was expected to look after her mother and she didn’t and the the book uh explores in a way that that tension between uh duty and freedom uh and uh but no she she goes to winchester and she ends up uh uh joining a an embroidery group who are making cushions and kneelers for the um for winchester cathedral i’ve always wanted to write a cathedral novel and i was drawn to these cushions and kneelers that are still in existence there because when you walk into a cathedral like that you um you everything you see uh especially in an old cathedral everything you see has been made by men the stained glass the the sculptures the the carvings the tiles on the floor the only thing we know in that cathedral is made by women women was the cushions and kneelers and i think i was just naturally drawn to that to that and i decided to write about that group which made them in the 1930s yeah so yeah they so they were known as the broderies of winchester cathedral and can you tell us a bit more about them because there is a um one of the uh people mentioned in the novel is actually a real life figure isn’t it yeah yes Louisa Pesel and it was Louisa Pesel’s um work her archive that has been has made its way to the textile department at the university of leeds so i spent a very happy day pawing through all these boxes of of new uh notebooks and papers and lots and lots of embroidery she was a embroidery expert at the turn of the century she worked for the V&A she taught embroidery abroad in greece and she traveled a lot and she um she ended up but she grew up in bradford so she always had a northern connection and then she ended up in winchester and organized this group of 180 women to make these incredibly beautiful and unusual cushions and kneelers for the the choir stalls in the cathedral and um so yes there’s a whole boxes and boxes of stuff that i went through um at the the library in leeds all right you also um i mean the the descriptions of the winchester cathedral which you needed to just a little earlier i felt um reading those passages are really transported to to the place i mean did you spend quite a lot of time in the community yes yeah yeah a lot um looking at the cushions walking around talking to people and also the the book is kind of balanced out between embroidery which was very much a women’s thing there’s only women who did it and um and this other group that’s connected to the cathedral uh bell ringers so and that was all male in the 1930s and they kind of i i i wanted to contrast the the idea of women who were making cushions to bring comfort to uh to worshipers so they’re bringing comfort to other people whereas the bell ringers were ringing for themselves um when you talk to bellringers a bell ringing is all about it’s not about making a melody it’s about a mathematical pattern it’s very difficult to do and um and the it was a challenge to the men and they often um you’d ask when i when i was doing research i would ask them well what do you think it sounds like to people out out in winchester hearing this and they’re like oh i don’t know we’re just trying to get the pattern right and uh and i thought violet speedwell when she she encounters both groups and it’s almost like she needs to recalibrate herself a bit to take on not just this notion of bringing comfort to other people but also doing things for herself for the pleasure of that it brings her uh not necessarily to other people so there was a it was important for me to get both of those things in right um so violet finds herself um a pretty decent job doesn’t she as a kind of a typist in an insurance office in in winchester um but um i mean the pay barely allows her to sort of cover her rent at the boarding house where she’s living with similar other similar surplus women um and she has to make decisions like you know will i have some dinner to the cinema or go to the cinema yes yeah um so and that i think was also a fairly common position for those women to be to be in wasn’t it yes i i read in my research is a wonderful book by virginia nicholson called singled out which is about single women in the 20s and 30s and she quotes lots of um and she quotes a lot of uh manuals for these single women like be a single woman and love it kind of thing and they were um i i had a i sat in the british library reading through quite a few of these and i found them such depressing reading because actually underneath it all i was trying to be very very cheerful about the idea of being a single woman with not very much money and the things that you should have in your cupboard and how you can save money on um washing by hand washing and various things and it was actually incredibly depressing because underneath it all is this undertow of really you want to find yourself a man if you can any man will do and and get married because that’s actually going to make you a lot happier than washing your stockings in the sink so it was it was very um it was kind of undermining itself the whole time but i used a lot of that information to to create violet’s daily life which did involve eating fish paste and and boiled eggs and sometimes not eating in order to go to the cinema yeah exactly so that’s um i think this kind of fairly neatly um kind of leads us into the the reading that you’ve um selected or the passage that you’ve selected because it is very much about money um and violet um approaches her boss with a request because she is struggling um so yes so um the scene i’m reading uh violet’s going to see her boss there were three typists one left because when you um get married you left and it wasn’t the law but at that time women did uh if they married they were just expected that they would leave their job and so there’s a vacancy and violet has an idea so she goes to her boss mr uh mr here we go we’re getting there mr waterman violet fortified herself with a tea biscuit then went to speak to mr waterman when she knocked on his open door he was gazing out of the window at the rain hello miss speedwell i was just admiring the rain the garden needs it now what can i do for you is that a cup of tea you’ve brought me just the ticket thank you i have a suggestion to make about the vacancy for a typist violet said you do mr waterman made no attempt to hide his astonishment astonishment tinged with disapproval she would have to hurry to lay out her plan before his annoyance at this female temerity shut down the conversation i was going to suggest that miss webster and i handle some of the extra work between ourselves if i take a shorter lunch break of just half an hour and work an extra hour on the weekdays that’s seven and a half hours a week more you would do that you would really work more hours for southern county’s insurance mr waterman’s gratitude alarmed her clearly he had misunderstood a crucial element of course i would be glad for the rise in pay she rejoined very glad it is not easy for a single girl to live on my current salary the rise in pay mr waterman wiped his forehead with a handkerchief violet could have said of course foolish man why would i do more work for no pay do you know what i eat for lunch that i never have a hot meal that my clothes hang off me because i’ve lost weight and i can’t afford to buy new that i either eat or go to the cinema that i have no pension and no husband to keep me and my savings are being decimated that i often wonder what will happen when i’m too old to work she said none of those things to mr waterman it will save southern counties money in the long run she explained not having to pay a third typist full salary yes i suppose that’s true mr waterman conceded after a moment the tide of his disapproval was slowly diminishing it rose again when she suggested her and maureen’s salaries increased by four shillings a week each and remained high as she patiently took him through the numbers and explained her calculations you’ve clearly given this some thought miss speedwell he muttered obviously displeased with the idea but when violet reminded him several times that there would be a saving of a salary he reluctantly agreed to set forth the solution to his seniors in southampton but miss speedwell i shall say this idea came from me if you don’t mind i can’t think what management would say to a girl having such a progressive idea violet did not expect a response for some time reasoning it would take mr waterman a week or two to come round to the idea and in a sense make it his own she didn’t mind if he did so as long as she got a pay rise so she was surprised when two days later he appeared in their office while she and maureen were typing and announced that southampton had agreed they could take on the extra work as a trial run for a month with an additional four shillings a week violet felt she had to ask yes yes miss speedwell with the additional four shillings mr waterman looked weary as if imagining he might have to feel the sort of demand from his wife or daughter after he left they continued to type in silence but when violet glanced over maureen was smiling that’s great fantastic negotiating skills there i think um so um yeah tracy you’ve said um that you write about ordinary women from the past who perform small acts of rebellion that build into revolutions which and and you can see that sort of beautifully played out in this novel um you can see how violence confidence kind of grows throughout the novel and um some of her small acts of rebellion i this you know trying to find have a romantic life for those women was very difficult wasn’t it so um can you tell us a little bit about this sort of slightly transgressive relationship that kind of builds up between um between violet and one of the bell ringers who you mentioned earlier um yes yeah arthur knight is one of the bell ringers and she gets to know him very slowly they become friends and uh but there’s a curtain undertow of a current of of attraction between them but he’s married and so it’s it’s always a a supportive relationship and he’s he’s very much the moral compass of the book he and louisa paisel and arthur has an understanding i mean one of the difficulties of writing a novel that’s set between the wars is that i know and you readers know that world war ii is coming but they don’t know they don’t call it world war one because they don’t know there’s going to be a second one they just called it the great war they couldn’t imagine there was going to be another war after all that they had been through and for me it was really difficult to put on the breaks and not give them too much foreknowledge of what was what was going to happen on the other hand the book takes place uh in the early 30s in 1933 hitler comes to power he becomes chancellor of germany and that’s right smack in the middle of the book and i thought i can’t let this go unnoticed and there’s another reason why it can’t go unnoticed which i don’t want to go into because it’s a spoiler but there’s something on those cushions and kneelers that’s really surprising which i discovered when i was in leeds going through the archive of louisa hazel’s stuff um she used to make models of what the women would embroider so she’d make a model and then give it to them and they’d copy it and i one of these one of these models i practically shrieked when i saw it and that changed the nature of some of the book and um it meant that i i wanted there to be one character who actually had some sense of what was going on who had the uneasiness about what was happening on the continent and in germany and that’s arthur so apart from being violet’s support he also opens her up to the wider world and thinking about how her place in the world and what’s going on in the world and how it affects her so he has a very important place in the book i think that yvette has frozen so i i’m maybe not are you there yvette i’m i’m back now i just worry i i did drop out so i i caught um the end of what you were saying there that arthur being a very important character in the book um partly from him you know that he he could um see what was coming in a way in a sense and what was happening in europe so yeah yeah and i think i think in a way he’s important because he teaches violet to be not to be more like a man that’s really a crude way of putting it but but to think for herself to not be um not to be oppressed by the the the position that she’s meant to the things that she’s meant to do the kind of life she’s meant to have so just one small example when she meets him at a pub at one point and um she looks around and all the women are drinking she doesn’t want to drink sherry there it doesn’t seem quite right that’s what she’s used to drinking the other women are drinking other you know lemon and different types of drinks but arthur offers to get her a half of a veil of the local ale and and that she’s the only woman in the pub is drinking that but it doesn’t occur to him he he feels like why shouldn’t a woman drink a pint even a pint if she wants to so it’s um he’s much more open-minded and open to the world and to what she can be in it and it helps her to become more independent yeah okay and there’s just one that’s a key sequence which kind of um ties in with um again the themes um the the wider themes that we might be discussing later but also into um uh events in the books of stephanie and nikita as well which is um the vulnerability of a woman on her own um yeah yeah so you know violet tries to yeah so she tries to do things so she goes out walking in the countryside um which should be a pleasurable experience but if you just talk us through what happens to her yes she goes on holiday on her own on a walking holiday there’s a wonderful path between winchester cathedral and salisbury cathedral and she walks along it it’s called the clarendon way you can do it it’s 26 miles and um she’s a little nervous about going on her own and then she starts to enjoy it and then unfortunately meets a man on his own in uh field and that um is not great and she um it it’s interesting because when i was researching that i walked i decided to walk it myself actually my husband and i were going to go for a weekend and then one or the other of us got ill so we had to cancel it and the following weekend i could go but he couldn’t and i thought well i’ll go on my own and i kept putting off making the reservation for the bed breakfast because i just i just thought i really i don’t really feel safe you know almost uh 80 years later 80 years after what happened what i create happening to violet um i felt myself that um we have changed so much in from 1932 to now there are many more opportunities for women there’s higher education there are all sorts of careers are open to us we’re not expected to marry but we still don’t feel safe walking through a field on our own and that really surprised me when it came home to me that i didn’t want to do it myself so i waited until we both could and i went with him um and and i’ve talked to women since who have said yes it’s very hard to walk alone in the countryside yes well um thanks tracy i um i think we’ll move on now to the nikita but thank you um and i hope that’s given everybody a flavor of this wonderful novel which i would highly recommend i recommend all these novels i think they’re all brilliant so um so if we can move on to uh nikita um so you people um it’s a it’s a kind of modern day morality tale set in contemporary london i think it’s 2000 early 2000s so 2003 in a seemingly ordinary italian restaurant called the pizzeria which is actually quite extraordinary i mean it’s a melting pot of lots of different people of different nationalities and backgrounds um so can you tell tell us a little bit more about you know the background to the novel and what inspired you to write it the behind the story and why that setting well um i used to uh frequent a place that’s a bit like vesuvio in the book and um i think that being in that place made me think about lots of questions or i guess moral kind of um points that didn’t have a direct answer that didn’t have a simple answer and that usually for me is the beginning of thinking about how to write a book in order to try and answer something that doesn’t present itself immediately um so i mean in the novel the studio is divided by front of house and what’s happening in the back in the kitchen so in the front of house you’ve got european waitresses who are seemingly spanish welsh indian mix um there’s someone from georgia in a restaurant down the road um and the then in the back of the restaurant you’ve got the sri lankan cooks many of whom are um officially not they don’t have legal status and this boundary between legal and illegal is sort of there in the front and back of vesuvio and wafting around and going blurring the boundaries and going from front to back is the proprietor um julie who’s a character who’s sort of playing god with um all of the people who come to the restaurant for help so it’s known as a place that you can go for help you can go there for legal aid you can go there for money you can go there if you need help with housing food loneliness or just for conversation but all of those different requests for help take place upstairs which is a sort of no-go area and so some of this was happening at the restaurant that i used to visit but as with all fiction it’s grown to accommodate the more exciting um thrillerish elements in this case that um sort of a plot like that lens you know the the situation like that lens um lens to you but um the character that um who was investigating or trying to understand the place is called near and she’s um come from wales and is of mixed race and she’s sort of fascinated with julie the proprietor doesn’t know if it’s a romantic fascination or if she actually wants to be him and her fascination with him and what he’s doing and how he’s making moral choices all the time is what propels you through the book okay i think you you’ve chosen um a really lovely um scene from quite near the beginning of the novel which kind of gives us a lovely picture of what the restaurant is like it feels like it’s a really interesting place so perhaps if you could read that for us that would be that would be great great so this is from the point of view of mia but the chapters actually alternate between the point of view of nia and of shawn who is um one of the sri lankan cooks who’s fleeing the Sri Lankan civil war in the back this is from her point of view she stared at everything and everyone in the beginning ignoring the veneer of detachment that protected other commuters in the mornings it was the summer of 2003 when nia joined the restaurant and that particular part of southwest london was just beginning to gear up for gentrification you could see the bankers male and female alike dipping their toes in walking past the burger joints and chicken shops with the praising gazes bodies taught with the effort of remaining open-minded tentatively making it down to the imposing residential squares they had heard about and staring up at the red brick and stucco mansion blocks and sliding timber sash windows they would go up to the hushed communal gardens that lay at the centre of these squares and lean on the railings not worried by the locked gates that always caught her out instead they seem to be practicing for a lifestyle that appeared to be entirely up to them she saw them on their way on her way to and from the restaurant and marveled at this idea radiating out from them that the responsibility of shaping a life was all down to the choices you might make they seem full to bursting with choices she had loved the place instantly in fact she loved the whole process walking from the tube turning down a small road past a greasy spoon the betting place the australian pub on the corner so she was right there standing at the paneled glass doors and looking up at pizzeria vesuvio each word hammered in gold and angled to form two sharp mountain slopes they were warm days at the start of that summer and these huge baroque capitals would be flashing with reflected sunlight against a vermillion background whilst underneath you had all the offerings in a humble white font cafe restaurant pizza pasta vesuvio your home from home inside the space was laid out pretty traditionally 20 small square tables on the ground floor with the till counter and wine racks at the back near the kitchen diaphanous white tablecloths small accordions of folded paper printed with photos of diners and the splashy headline welcome to the magic of vesuvio one candle per table along with single stems in water a pink rose or carnation usually a spiral staircase at the front led up to a function room with the bar at one end and leather sofas at the other this was the area where julie entertained guests unless it was hired out for a private party but also where the staff mostly had their meals between shifts some of the sri lankan cooks lived above this first floor in a flat that nia had heard about and she’d witnessed them disappearing at the end of the night through another door near the bar she’d watch them go through a dark portal into relative privacy one or two guys at a time catch a glimpse of an impossibly steep flight of stairs register the knitted warmth of their murmurs after the door was locked from the inside and they were no longer visible there was something fascinating about the definitive way in which they sealed themselves off they were different from her in that they had a clear end to the day some place that they wanted to go when work was done even if it was just upstairs in contrast she always lingered when her hours were through unsure as to what she should do next that’s great thank you thanks so as you a tamil refugee who’s fled the civil war in sri lanka by pr-paying traffickers to get him out of the country and leaving his young his wife and his young son behind so where did those two characters come from and why did you choose to tell a story from their points of view well that’s a really interesting question when it started i um immediately began to investigate the mystery of tully and there therefore destroyed the mystery of julie by going into his head and i deflated the all of the tension that you need for book to work and all of the desire to write it actually was kind of deflated in that instance and i suddenly realized that i shouldn’t go into julie’s point of view um so in a sense the two characters um grew out of a desire for truly to remain a mystery and for us to see him in two different ways so when we see him from the viewpoint of a 19 year old mixed race um we- waitress who looks white and um looks italian and therefore gets the job working in an italian restaurant but he’s actually indian to some degree and wants to understand the place and then you see him from another person’s point of view um sean the sri lankan cook who as you mentioned fled torture and fled an incredibly traumatic background and has witnessed things that torment him and who was trying to find his family um there are two different forms of need going on in the book and that’s quite an exciting pull in terms of reading but also the truly that you encounter in alternate chapters is slightly different depending on who’s watching him and talking to him these different things to different people and that is quite an interesting dynamic i think in the book so that’s why i did it that way um but uh the two characters they grew up in because they have different stages of need and there was this idea that one would get sucked into the other person’s story um and then come back out again with character A getting sucked back into into character B  stories to start with and then character b going and getting sucked back into character’s a story and this idea for me came from the fact that in london or in a city like london we all rub it up against each other and you encounter people from so many different backgrounds um and then if you’re in the same geographical space um the restaurant operates in this sort of square mile every everyone in that square mile around the restaurant um can come there um then you meet people who are from completely different backgrounds than you might otherwise and so i think that’s why those two characters grew but it was shawn who came to me first because i was interested in that period when there was an influx of people from sri lanka into the uk right in the early in the early noughts and what kind of research did you do around that um because you know the whole that sort of very um insecure life that those people are leading and everything um you know sort of living in the outside kind of on the margins of sighting really aren’t they that you know and there’s i mean there’s a fantastic set piece which is like from a crime um thriller or something you know when the immigration enforcement officers raid the restaurant um did you speak to people who’d experienced that um or yeah just tell us a little bit more about that yeah for sure um well before i was a novelist i i did work as a documentary maker for a while and i still think that i’m using those same skills um when i write now so i usually start with interviews um i talk to people who would experience that um very thin hostile environment restaurant raids that were taking place regularly during that time and that still take place obviously now um and um i also talked to asylum lawyers i talked to freedom from torture the organization um but there’s a very complicated thing with interviewing people who’ve experienced torture and that the act the actual interviewing of them um with ptsd can bring the memories back so it was a i didn’t do that but um i talked to people about the refugee experience for sure um and also my father was a refugee through the partition of india and that’s very much a narrative that’s in our family and that sort of turns up again and the idea of survival of family separation there was a lot of that in the partition of india and obviously it’s a very current thing right now um family separation at borders whether breaking the law is something that one should do in order to reunite families who’ve been separated um that’s a big question i guess that preoccupied me when i was writing the book and fiction allows you to explore alternate answers for that which you know which aren’t legal and like life i guess yes i mean that’s what is really good on those great areas as you know which i you know it’s very very thought-provoking because there are these huge moral choices that people have to make um and kind of what um shan and nia have in common is that they suffer for us from a sort of survivor’s guilt i guess because they’ve chosen to save themselves haven’t they um yeah they both have a survivor’s guilt and also they discover what they have in common or that they both they both have a survivor’s guilt but they’re also both sort of struggling um in the vast kind of um loneliness of london to just make it from day to day and week to week and they’re both hoping nothing will go drastically wrong because when you’re living on the edge like that um if there’s illness or if you get thrown out of your flats and bailiffs turn up as happens with sean or if you run out of money and can’t buy your um travel card uh you can’t get to work um being destitute is sort of very close and very present and the restaurant provides them with a family um of sorts whilst they are estranged from their um other that you know the families that we you know the more traditional ideas of the more additional forms of family um filial and romantic and their children um so that’s a definitely a connecting force between them they’re all kinds i also wanted that gray area there are all kinds of illegal things happening in the restaurant you know there’s benefit fraud cigarettes are being sold illegally um there are it’s a place that you can go to apply for asylum and there can be a discussion about what will be the most successful way to apply for asylum um and the main character says you know it’s about the greater good you know a few lies here and there are okay if the greater choice and the greater good um is being adhered to um and at the end when things become quite dramatic in the book um and it sort of keeps tumbles into a different world really or a different realm of danger um julie says well would is it better not to try you know you’re going to make some mistakes if you try to help and not just be a bystander not just walk on by when somebody’s in trouble but does that mean you shouldn’t try does that mean that you shouldn’t force yourself to think about people’s circumstances and whether they need help that person on the street that needs help that person who’s been separated from their family and needs help getting them over um so that’s deliberately muddy i think i like the reader to be engaged in the process of trying to work out what they think and you know in an ideal world different readers who discuss it would have different opinions there’s not a sort of didactic element to the book i hope no not at all it’s it’s extremely thought-provoking and it has like those different layers but and it’s also you know while it it doesn’t pull any punches and you know it’s very it deals with very difficult issues in the end i found it uplifting in in the sense that it showed you how to be kind you know which i think is a really important message especially at the moment well that’s great so thank you nikita um if we can now move on to stephanie hello stephanie thanks for waiting so um your book um you say in your acknowledgments that the novel was inspired by um a real-life trial in japan in 2010 in which a woman was murdered by a so-called now i’m not going to be able to say this you’ll probably have to correct me but it’s a waka rasa very quick okay um that’s a person who’s hired by a husband or wife to seduce their spouse in order to gain the advantage in divorce proceedings so can you tell us a little bit more about um that case and why and how it inspired you to write your novel sure well the novel is a work of fiction so it’s loosely inspired by that case but what occurred um there was a murder that occurred in 2010 and there the husband hired a wakare cesai agent to seduce his wife and provide him with grounds for divorce only the agent fell in love with his target and the target fell in love with him in turn and she was later murdered um and so the novel really revolves around all of the different kinds of of love that exist what love means to each each of us individually but also what we are capable of doing to each other for love um how we love is it possible to love someone and kill them and that that’s really where the novel began and um and my story begins with Tsumiko a young woman a newly qualified lawyer who grows up never truly knowing how her mother died until one day that changes and so she is drawn into the past narrative this love triangle and she goes in search of the truth of what really happened to her mother right yes so um i think as you say you mentioned sorry i lost you for a little bit there but um she uh she she was has been told by her grandfather that her mother died in a car crash so that’s the story that she’s been told um and then um something well perhaps if you could do the reading um that you’d you’ve chosen because that kind of sets things up about you know what west of its tsumiko is and where she’s going with what she’s found out yep now you’re right uh she grows up never knowing how her mother truly died and one day that changes and she goes in search of the truth so what i know i was raised by my grandfather yoshi sarashima i lived with him in a white house in maguro tokyo in the evenings he would read to me he told me every story about my own my grandfather was a lawyer he was careful in his speech even when we were alone together in his study and i would sit on his lap even then he had a precision with words i have kept faith with that precision to this day grandpa read everything to me mashima sat duma tolstoy basho tales of his youth duck hunting and shimoda and one book the trial that became my favorite it begins like this someone must have been telling lies about joseph k when we read that line for the first time grandpa explained that the story was a translation i was 12 years old stretching out my fingers for a while beyond my own and i reached out then to the yellowed page stroking the written characters that spoke of something new i read the opening aloud summoning the figure of joseph a lonely man a man people would tell lies about as i grew older i began to argue with grandpa about the trial he told me other people fought over it too over the translation of one word in particular volumdet to tell a lie in some versions of the story this word is translated as slander slander speaks of courts and accusations of public reckoning it has none of the childhood resonance of telling lies and yet when i read this story for the first time it was the translators use of telling lies that fascinated me lies when they are first told have a shadow quality to them a gossamer texture that can wrap around a life they have that feather-like essence of childhood and my childhood was built on lies the summer before my mother died oops sorry carry on no no no please carry on sorry um the summer before my mother died we went to the sea when i look back on that time those months hold a sense of finality for me not because that was the last holiday my mother and i would take together but because it is the site of my last true memory every year as the august heat in gulf tokyo my family piled their suitcases onto a local train and headed for the coast we went to shimoda father remained in the city to work but grandpa came with us each time he would stop at the same kiosk in the state station to buy frozen clementines for the train and in the metallic heat of the carriage mama and i would wait impatiently for the fruit to soften so we could get at the pockets of sorbet within finally when our chins were sticky with juice mama would turn to me in our little row of two and ask what i would like to do by the sea just her and i alone forrest sweeps over the hills above our house i was not allowed up there alone as a child and so when i looked at my mother on the train that summer she knew immediately what i would ask for in the afternoons mama and i climbed high on the wooded slopes above our home washikura we watched the tea fields as they darkened before autumn we lay back on the rocky black soil and breathed in the sharp resin of the pines some days we heard the call of a sea eagle as it circled overhead grandpa knew the forest but he never found us there at four o’clock each afternoon he would venture to the base of the hillside and call to us through the trees i often heard him before mama did but i always waited for her signal to be quiet on our last afternoon in the forest i lay still feeling the soft and steady path of my mother’s breath against my face her breathing quieted and slowed i opened my eyes and stared at her at the dark lashes against her cheeks i took in her pala her stillness i heard my grandfather begin to call his voice thin and distant i snuggled closer kissing kissing her face pushing through the coldness with my breath suddenly she smiled her eyes still closed and pressed a finger to her lips we no longer own our home washikara on the outskirts of shimoda grandpa sold it many years ago but when i go there today climbing up through the undergrowth i can feel my mother there beneath the trees when i lie down on the ground the pine needle sharp under my cheek i imagine that the chill of the breeze is the stroke of her finger thank you so um in a similar way to to nikita’s novel your um uh stories you have two perspectives so we we hear from Tsumiko um and her voyage of discovery and then we also have um rina who is her her mother and and kartano’s story um who is the uh who was hired by um rina’s husband to to seduce um truth and lies are very much at the at the heart of the novel aren’t they and there’s a great quote which comes up and time and again which is you know the the lies of the lies that we’re told the very best ones are close to the truth but um that leads to um well a tragedy doesn’t it so um can you first of all i mean you spent quite a lot of time i think in japan researching the novel so um and in particular the japanese legal system because there’s some very particular things about certainly around divorce that that are um quite different to to what we might expect so can you tell us a bit about that research and what you discovered sure um well this novel has been 10 years in the making so um i began it in 2010 and i traveled extensively in japan and i worked with a number of lawyers in tokyo who were very generous with their time and their expertise and really enabled me to do the kind of deep dive into the legal system that i that i wanted to do um of course even though the novel is told through the prism of japanese history and culture it’s it’s exploration of love, relationships, divorce and the position of women has a much more global resonance that i hope every reader can can relate to um and so what what really interested me i think is that the number of the lawyers that i worked with um they were all women um and they’d gone to the university of tokyo which is extremely hard to get into and they were very much the minority um and i think the renowned women’s studies professor shizukueno calls um japan’s gender problem a a human disaster and um and she sort of speaks about how few women there are uh at today um particularly studying the law and so i wanted to explore through um rena and simeko how women can be constrained uh by society how um you know we can be trapped by society’s expectations and that tension between societal expectations and personal desire um and so even though uh rena the mother um starts out um at today studying law she gets sucked back into her domestic roles you know that she’s um she returns to the home she’s expected to marry well she does um and so i really wanted to explore the parallel of her life and how um how she is constrained with society and then how Tsumiko 20 years later also deals with that and um and how feminism is progressing in japan today right um i mean there’s a lot at stake isn’t there in the divorce proceedings in because the the kind of joints custody of children is illegal i think is that still the case yeah it is yes um although uh they are currently um undertaking a study to investigate whether joint custody might be possible um but currently uh only one parent is awarded sole custody of any children and this um this of course leads to many heartbreaking situations um and it’s very it’s difficult as well because there are arguments for and against joint custody um particularly i think from women’s rights activists uh they worry that um you know women will be unable to get away from abusive husbands um and they’re unable to look after their children and and be safe um if joint custody were to be introduced so um there are really a lot of arguments on both sides right or against the novel it’s a brilliant combination of um a crime thriller um elements of it and then this very tender love story as well so that’s a very fine balance that you’ve got there was that quite challenging to write um yes it was i mean i i do love uh love stories and i’m very interested in um romance narratives how they unfold on the page the expectations that are set up implicitly within them so i think that was my literary passion really at the heart of it um and then the the crime element uh i really wanted to use that to create momentum to drive the narrative and and also to to propel the reader forward um i think it was very important to me with the the crime story um to really focus on the victim of the murder um i was i’m very interested in um violence against women and the proliferation of murders um against women that seem to only be increasing in today’s world and what interested me was how so often the victim is forgotten and and utterly defi they become defined by their death and their their lives um are reduced down to that one event and so what i wanted to do was really go back into rena’s life and Tsumiko does this in in her search for her mother um and really look at her as a as a person and recover her history and and give her the opportunity to um to live her own story to write to write her own story that’s great well thank you thank you for for that uh stephanie i think if we can if i can bring you all together the three of you now and just to have a a little bit of a more uh general discussion and hopefully we might get some questions also from the audience um but i thought to start with and just a question for you all your your books um feature strong female lead characters so i’m well um violet uh nia and rina and Tsumiko actually would it be fair to say that they’re all trying to take charge of their own destiny but they’re in some way thwarted or hampered by society’s expectations of them as as women tracy perhaps we could come back to you first with that sorry about that um yeah i think in a way that’s where the drama lies for me uh it’s it’s there’s if a woman already if i’m writing about a woman and she already has her her place she has power then um there’s nothing to write about and particularly because i write about in historical settings uh the the women in the past and now one could still argue but i think we’ve come a long way but women in the past had very little socioeconomic uh power and or political power and if i’m going to write about a woman in the past she’s often the powerless one and and the story is often about how she there’s a problem somewhere that she has to solve it’s about herself or her place in the world and she has to she has to resolve it in a way by somehow sneakily gaining some sort of uh purchase some sort of power for herself a new place for herself and and that is always um for me that’s the dramatic story that i’m i find myself telling over and over again and particularly for women in the past who haven’t been written about so the book i’m probably best known for is about a very famous painting a girl in the pearl earring and there’s been loads written about vermeer the painter but nothing about the women in his paintings we don’t know who they are and and i wanted to change that by by turning the turning the camera around or turning and putting it on the shoulder of someone else rather than the painter and um and that’s uh that felt important to me that that women’s voices would be opened up in that way yes nikita yeah um i think that um for me mia um she’s a woman working in a restaurant in which there are a lot of men and she’s fascinated with a man and thinks she can be that man and to some extent she’s think she’s sort of beyond sexual boundaries and then a moment happens in the restaurant of extreme vulnerability um about halfway into the book where she is reminded of the fact that the same rules don’t apply to the men in the restaurant as they as as do to her um the women in the restaurant are expected to flirt it’s an unspoken idea in the restaurant that part of the job description requires an element of flirtation and that flirtation leads to a very dark compromised moment for her when she leaves the restaurant and there was no one to look after her so that illusion of being in a family and being cared for and being looked after by in the confines of the restaurant disappears once she goes down the dark alleyway around the restaurant um so that in terms of agency you know in terms of what a character can and can’t do as tracy was saying both in their lives and as a character in a book that idea of um being female and those boundaries um that was interesting to me i think in the book but she’s very much a go-getting um sort of character and she’s i think you know if you were to ask nia what she thinks about her life and she’s staring at people who are making choices that’s her desire her desires to create her own fate and then she puts it to spread sunlight rather than darkness in the world and that’s a very active desire i guess that she has i think stephanie maybe yes stephanie i think you better i think that’s frozen okay um well yes as i was saying uh the novel um really revolves around the tension societal expectations and personal desire and the roles that women are expected to fill and particularly in japan where they are um where it’s even now i still believe that the woman’s role is primarily in the home and that her focus should be on marriage and children and i’m very interested in i suppose disruptive female narratives where women step beyond their roles um during my BA at york i specialized in ancient greek drama and uh euripides is a lecturer was was my favorite text studied there and that play is all about agency it’s all about elektra stepping out of her domestic roles out of the the person she’s supposed to be and you know trying to find her own form of vengeance um and similarly i think there are some amazing women writing about uh womanhood and again breaking down these traditional roles today so sayaka murata miyeko kawakami natsu korino these are my idols really and i’m very much riding into that tradition of of questioning you know what women can do what you know can they do what they want to do um and should they and how does that affect society if they do i mean obviously men are very constrained uh can be very constrained socially as well but it is the women fascinate me and uh and so both Rina and Tsimuko have their own struggles their own personal desires and their own quests for agency i think um um just more generally just thinking about that you know obviously violence against women is very you know it’s a huge major theme in your book but it comes up or potential violence that comes up in in all three books do you how far do you think we’ve we’ve come because that seems to be one of the areas that where there hasn’t been a huge great deal of improvement in uh in terms of where we are today would you agree yes i would say you know how far have we come not far enough so it’s very current i think it depends on the country and part of the world um it’s i wouldn’t say it’s equal across the world um and first i think what has maybe changed in some parts of the world is that women feel more able to speak out that’s certainly what the Me Too movement brought about that there’s a there’s a willingness to go public and i i don’t know if that happened because of social media maybe because things can be so much more public than they used to be but uh but that but but that doesn’t go across the board there are other countries it sounds like japan probably that is not the case um that women are willing and able to speak out if they have are abused have violence against them yeah it’s it’s difficult i think the um the Me Too movement is more nascent there but people are women are beginning to speak out more um if you know if not about domestic violence then certainly about social issues they have the the coutu movement which is against being made to wear heels in the workplace and and uh and also being banned from wearing glasses because it makes them appear cold you know so there are all kinds of new social initiatives now that are really coming to the fore i think miyako kawakami says women are no longer content to shut up it’s funny about the wearing heels because we sort of raise our eyebrows but actually a few years ago in london there was a receptionist who at a law firm and they uh required her to wear heels and she took them to court about it so it’s not just in japan um it’s elsewhere too but maybe now you know we’ve come further in england because we can take people to court whereas they might not be quite willing to yet in japan but still it’s uh things die hard it takes a long time for things to to uh become to equalize yeah sorry nikita girl yeah no what i was gonna say was not necessarily about violence but more in line with what tracy is saying about um expectations um i recently read invisible women by caroline creado paris which is all about data bias in the world and how it’s all the entire world as we know it has been created um physically in practical terms for men whether that’s you know how cities have been constructed or um you know how heart diagnosis take place or medical trials um and it was sort of jaw-dropping when i read it and i was also astounded at myself for not knowing most of what was in it but it’s a very diligent excavation of how how much you know emotional labor a woman is carrying in the workplace and how little is done in order to sort of um adapt to women’s lives but also as i said in the medical on the medical front or on buses or in shops or in the home um how little has been done to create things for women and this not she says at one point this is not out of malice this is this is because women are invisible and haven’t been thought of when the construction of those environments is taking place um and the thing she was asked what was what’s most infuriating for you of all of the things that you discovered when you were researching the book and she said it’s that crash test dummies are always men for when a car crashes um and when the eu decided to use to not do that they used a smaller version of a male crash test dummy to test the car rather than a female one um so that’s sort of at the other end of the scale from abnet violence as as is in stephanie’s book um where there’s a sort of misogyny you know an overtly mis act of another act of misogyny um i guess i’m that that subtle gradation of misogyny that infiltrates everything that’s what’s fascinating to me in that book yes um is that current sorry i dropped out there for a second but is that that’s caroline credo perez yeah which is absolutely what’s a good read it’s very shocking though i think isn’t it yeah um i just wanted to actually to to ask you actually as women writers because i think we’ve definitely moved on a long way from when the brontes had to um have male pseudonyms in order to be taken seriously but i just wondered what your experience had been as as women writers or whether you felt that you’d been treated slightly differently or as as women writers um tracy is that something that you could comment it’s really hard it’s very it’s very subtle um and i i think you know on the surface of it i feel that i’ve been treated equally uh but in in reality i i know the numbers i mean i know they’re getting better but there is uh there are um surveys taken of um every year of of helm and i can’t remember what the name of this survey is but it’s they they they count up how many women have been reviewed and how many men have been reviewed uh male authors female authors and also the reviewers whether they’re male or female and it was really shocking and and i you know i started i published first in 1997 and things have improved a lot because there was a huge outcry in this probably five or six years ago and um i think that to their credit literary editors on newspapers have really tried hard to uh to to make it a little bit more equal but i guess i i dropped in the middle of that in 97 when it was not very um equal at all and i you know i have no idea if a different writer if a male writer had written the books that i read wrote would i be further along in my career or or would they would have been taken more seriously and there’s this whole question of whether um because you know we we know this classic thing of uh that that women will read books with male protagonists in them but men tend not to and um and i i just don’t know if we are more open-minded and men are less open-minded i hate to make that kind of sweeping generalization but um i’ve personally pushed against that by only reading women i only read for the longest time i realized i was just reaching for books by women and and now i’ve had to kind of switch that a little bit to to be a little bit more open-minded myself but uh but as a that as a writer i think i’ve been pretty lucky and i haven’t come up against um being treated you know paid less or treated less fairly i think that men are probably still taken more seriously for the most part male writers but that’s changing i think there is a whole generation of the ian mcewens and julian barnes and salman rushdie and martin amos everybody talks about them and uh and less about uh the women from that time uh rose tremaine and hillary mantell but but the thing is it is shifting now so there are definitely more more and more women i mean it’s kind of crazy when you think of novelists uh more women read novels more women buy novels so you would think there would actually probably be more uh novels published by women and they would do well but um and i think that is slightly shifting but it would be good i should shut up now and hear from the younger generation because you have a much closer experience to this than i do nikita what about you well yeah it’s it’s it’s so interesting um hearing what what you’re saying about the last 20 years um i think that i always become some sort of um internalized misogyny comes to the fore and i always become obsessed with the idea of a male reader because i think when when i’m about to be published with each book the the first um cover that comes through strangely even though it isn’t really linked to anything in the book is often purple or pink and has some sort of paisley pattern in my case all over the and um and this book for example it’s got a great cover now i think but it’s it’s much grittier it’s very um lightened shade and dark spaces of london it’s nothing to do with looking like a pink cookery book from the south asia you know subcontinent but um but that’s the first pass always with each book and i find it bizarre and i think is that is that that they’ve eliminated they’ve eliminated in their head a certain kind of male reader or is that what the publishing industry think do you say anything to your publisher i actually do love the dialogue i have and the editor i have and and the publicist in the pub publicity team because then it changes so i have been able to talk this through um it hasn’t just been a dark smoldering bitterness in the corner i talk it through but i remember early on someone said to me um you know what the the ideal cover on a piece of literary fiction written by a woman is a woman in silhouette turning away you can’t see her face and she’s a woman in silhouette turning away from the cover on the cover um and where she has her head cut off oh she had the haircut yeah right but you can’t you mustn’t see her face because the female reader and there is only a female reader for that book um is going to um is going to put their own face into that silhouette or into that sliced off head they will put their own head and it suggests that a it’s quite bizarre and gender lines in heteronormative et cetera but it’s also this idea that you know we eliminate men from reading female books and i found that idea quite difficult i would say that you’d eliminate them as a possible reader for your book um whereas with this book with this book i’ve seen um for example on goodreads which i always find very interesting i see that that it split the readers of you people split between male and female or you know with the where the pronouns are male and female um and so that’s interesting to me but that like that that’s the part i found difficult of being a female writer not differences in pay and that kind of thing yeah more that idea that you may not there’s a whole sector who may not read you and that that is assumed yeah i wonder if this if this feeds into that a little bit but there’s a phenomenon that um that i and my fellow debuts we’ve all bonded together over the pandemic um so we’re in touch quite a lot but there’s a phenomenon that that obsesses all of us which is you know are female writers expected to uh relate their novels to themselves personally and i guess also in terms of publicity the kind of features that we are asked to write often um to promote the book they’re extremely personal there’s always almost a sense that with women you’re expected to bleed onto the page um i do wonder if if men are asked to do quite as much of that um yeah i suspect not i suspect not yeah that’s really interesting i i feel like i’m gonna i’m gonna look at the interviews and the the pieces that men right now and and with that with that in mind to see if that’s the case but i think you’re absolutely right a woman is meant to be more giving of herself certainly i mean when um my novel is about mothers and daughters and and when i was writing it you know my mom became very seriously ill i thought i might we thought we might lose her and thankfully we didn’t um and she’s fine touchwood now but uh but that was that was a particular interest i think in the features that we asked they were like oh could you talk about how that um related to the novel you know as opposed to the novel being a piece of fiction that i’d crafted of course it had an impact but i i was very much expected to delve deep into the emotional odyssey um yeah i would like to know about my male contemporaries and if they’re expected to bleed quite so much and did you say instead no to your publicist actually no i want to write articles about um the misogynist culture in in japan thank you very much yeah you can write about that stephanie that’s fascinating what you were talking about with the heels and then yeah well it is it’s what absolutely interests me um and again it’s you know it’s what i researched it’s what i worked on um i think oh you know i won i won anthropological grants for my uh work uh in japan and so uh you know i would i would love to talk about my research as opposed to my personal background and feelings yeah you always get asked whether whether it’s autobiographical i think that happens to me a lot in with each book but i assume that that happens to men as well i mean or do you think that that happens mainly to women um the assumption that it’s 100 100 autobiographical that tracey’s gone back in time and lived in that the yeah i think i think that’s i think that is something that um the people inflict upon women authors actually uh the assumption that it is autobiographical and it’s difficult because there’s so much of oneself in every novel that we write you know my my indian grandmother is a is the lawyer it’s no coincidence at all that samika’s grandfather or she is a lawyer and that i’ve chosen to tell the story through the prism of law um you know i think my family always hoped i would be a lawyer but that doesn’t mean that this is the story of my life but to be fair that’s probably the case of men as well there’s a lot of autobiographical elements because that’s what you know writing all writing is going to reveal the interests of the writer um whether they write specifically about themselves or not that’s true yeah i think we’re where is he vet i think yvette are you there you me yeah yeah we can hear you we could good can you hear me at all we can hear you yes we can hear you can you hear us oh i think she’s yes i’m wondering if we were going to go on to questions from the audience if there are any but we don’t have any access to that us three yvette has the access to it so we’re hoping that yvette’s gonna come on if not maybe ken who’s in the background everybody there are people in the background here who are doing stuff so they might be able to feed those questions to us oh no that’s here can you hear me now yes yes oh i’m sorry i just keep dropping out and coming back in again and um so i’m i’m really sorry about that i don’t don’t know what’s happening here i i just thought perhaps we could um as a as a kind of wrapping up um and trying to be a bit positive about um about everything it’s just could you just tell me what where where what makes you feel optimistic about the future for for women’s rights and how can we finish this unfinished business do you think wow um i’ll i think i am really heartened by um by movements like me too by um the invisible woman the book i just feel like that book would not have been published uh even 10 years ago and and the fact that it is and that people are talking about it and i get it it’s referenced so often and i think wow people are really opening opening their eyes and i that makes me really hopeful about the future great yeah my um i guess my books about altruism on one level and whether altruism exists and during the pandemic i’ve seen that um you know all of these grassroots movements have sprung up within the community where people are helping each other and that goes for the women who are on their own living on their own or who are in um difficult domestic situations you know just in the road the road that i live in um i got someone knocking on the door saying they were collecting for someone who was like many was in a tricky domestic violence situation during lockdown in order to get her out and get her set up in a council flat near us and that kind of thing that happened a lot in the pandemic you know looking after elders who are on their own um and that that that made me feel optimistic in terms of the fact that i was interested in altruism for the book right and stephanie um yes i think there is a great deal of hope i love the the energy of of women the focus and you know i think you can see it even you can see it particularly in the literary world in japan where you know it has traditionally been extremely male focused there are now some fantastic voices um who are coming to the fore and uh and really um occupying their rightful place i think in center stage and so that is that is extremely heartening to just hear and and and see and uh and there is you know things are changing every the societies society around the world is evolving and so that is always an encouraging thing well thank you just before we go then um just a quick reminder that there are more free unfinished business leads events taking place over this weekend so you can find details of those on the british library website um but otherwise i’d just like to say thank you so much to the authors tracy nikita and stephanie um to the british library and leeds libraries to unique media for hosting the event and to all of you out there who’ve been attending i hope you’ve enjoyed the evening and just another quick reminder that you can use the menu above to give us uh any feedback so thanks very much everybody and sorry i was a bit glitchy um it was lovely to speak to you all thank you goodbye Thank you Bye.