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Max’s Walking Book Club – Helen Dunmore – Birdcage Walk

Sunday 24th September at 11:30am

Join other book-lovers for a walk in the Saffron Walden countryside to discuss Helen Dunmore’s Birdcage Walk.

‘Like all great writers who pass too young, her readers will long for the books that might have been but alongside these regrets lies a gratitude for a life spent in literature and the wonderful books that she gave us over a quarter of a century of dedicated and prolific writing.’ – John Boyne

I liked Birdcage Walk, especially late at night, when darkness and the rustle of nocturnal creatures gave an edge to the safety of the paved path.

It is 1792 and Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence.

Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in Radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism. But she has recently married John Diner Tredevant, a property developer who is heavily invested in Bristol’s housing boom, and he has everything to lose from social upheaval and the prospect of war.

Soon his plans for a magnificent terrace built above the two-hundred-foot drop of the Gorge come under threat. Diner believes that Lizzie’s independent, questioning spirit must be coerced and subdued. She belongs to him: law and custom confirm it, and she must live as he wants.

In a tense drama of public and private violence, resistance and terror, Diner’s passion for Lizzie darkens until she finds herself dangerously alone.

A stirring and visceral exploration of women’s lives in Georgian Britain, Birdcage Walk considers the traces we leave through history when we die through the voices of women who dared to think beyond the confines of their time.

Described by Kate Kellaway in a glowing review for The Guardian as ‘the finest novel Helen Dunmore has written’, Birdcage Walk was also Dunmore’s last. Published before her death from cancer in 2017 it contains many of the themes that suffuse her novels; love, family, identity and what legacy we bequeath to later generations. Dunmore, in an interview on BBC R4’s Open Book shortly before her death commented of the novel: “I think of what is the mark that any human being leaves behind, which when you are very ill you’re bound to think about… ‘What is the purpose of my existence? Have I fulfilled my existence?’ and the characters are asking that question of themselves…”

‘This powerful novel is a fine final flourish from a gifted writer… The power Dunmore gives to lowly female lives is inescapably moving, their stories taking us on a remarkable journey into the visceral heart of the female experience in Georgian Britain.’ – The Times

Helen Dunmore’s pen must have barely rested after her first novel, Zennor in Darkness, was published in 1993. An extraordinarily prolific writer, she won the inaugural Orange Prize for Fiction for her second novel A Spell of Winter and her other bestselling fiction included the novels The SiegeThe Betrayal and ExposureBirdcage Walk was her last novel. Dunmore also wrote books for children and YA readers, including the novels that form the Ingo Chronicles. She was also an award-winning poet and her final collection, written in the months leading up to her death, Inside the Wave, is both a meditation on mortality and a celebration of life in all its strange and wonderful richness.

Children, dogs and friends welcome! Suitable footwear recommended!