Samantha Harvey and Tim Lott – Sibling Rivalry Unfolds
Thursday 16th August, Edinburgh International Book Festival
Take two British authors.
Each with new novels.
Each taking ‘sibling rivalry’ as their chosen theme.
Each affable and open to their early morning audience.
But it’s there that the similarities end.
Rather like the sets of brothers they go on to describe in their readings, both Harvey and Lott are poles apart in attitude and style.
Harvey is the first to read to us. Demure, delicate and thoughtful.
She reads a passage from her latest work ‘All Is Song’. A domestic drama played out between two brothers, William and narrator Leonard.
It examines the place of ‘pure philosophy’ in real life. How would a middle-aged, middle-class and questioning Socrates (William) fare in present-day London? Sure enough he severely tests the love and patience of everyone close to him.
Next up, it’s Tim Lott.
A crumbled curmudgeon in the best tradition. Straight out of central casting for ‘Grumpy old men’. That said, I defy anyone not to warm to him or his half-empty view on life. (He writes a stoically brilliant family column in Saturday’s Guardian if you’re interested.)
At first glance, his new book ‘Under The Same Stars’ takes a familiar theme – a road trip across the US as voyage of self-discovery – but it offers richer, more rewarding twists along the way.
From the evidence of Lott’s delivery there’s pathos and laughter a-plenty between the pages – a tricky balance to pull off – and according to a frustrated Lott himself, a bastard of a proposition to sell to British publishers. (It’s either one genre or the other apparently – don’t get him started.)
The younger brother in the book, 40-year-old Salinger, is as Lott readily admits, a living, breathing version of himself. Dogged since youth by depression, he leaves his London house for his elder brother Carson’s suburban home in New Orleans.
It’s the ever-optimistic Carson who persuades Salinger that they should take a trip to find their missing father in New Mexico. How does it work out? Well, we’ll have to read the book to find out.
Two talented authors in a tent linked by a commonplace destination. Each taking very different routes to get there. As Lott’s character Salinger laconically responds to the American wife of his brother on hearing she practices ‘Christian massage’ incorporating prayer and bible readings, “What’s not to like?”