NCW’s book recommendations for City of Literature Weekend 2024
With only three weeks to go until City of Literature Weekend, we’re spotlighting ten thought-provoking books from the dazzling authors who will be joining us in Norwich UNESCO City of Literature.

Three weeks to go! Get ready for City of Literature Weekend with our reading list of ten thought-provoking books that celebrate the multiplicity of voices inn our community, compiled by our Head of Programmes & Creative Engagement, Holly Ainley.

Queen Macbeth by Val MacDermid

Shakespeare fed us the myth of the Macbeths as murderous conspirators. But now Val McDermid drags the truth out of the shadows, exposing the patriarchal prejudices of history. Expect the unexpected . . .

A thousand years ago in an ancient Scottish landscape, a woman is on the run with her three companions – a healer, a weaver and a seer. The men hunting her will kill her – because she is the only one who stands between them and their violent ambition. She is no lady: she is the first queen of Scotland, married to a king called Macbeth. As the net closes in, we discover a tale of passion, forced marriage, bloody massacre and the harsh realities of medieval Scotland. At the heart of it is one strong, charismatic woman, who survived loss and jeopardy to outwit the endless plotting of a string of ruthless and power-hungry men. Her struggle won her a country. But now it could cost her life.

We can’t wait to hear Val deliver this year’s Harriet Martineau Lecture, an annual event which celebrates the legacy of a remarkable, world-changing woman by inviting globally-renowned radical speakers to respond to her life and work.


Living By Troubled Waters by Roy McFarlane

Living by Troubled Waters is innovative, formally experimental and far ranging in scope; erasure & inclusion (to make known) poems interweave and speak to the wider body of the collection. In his use of archival documents as a space for activism and linguistic intervention, McFarlane writes back into history, reclaiming voices and reshaping narratives. His poems also draw strength from themes of place and displacement, social justice, Black motherhood, family, art – and from the power of poetry itself as a witness to troubled times.

Roy will be joining us to read from the unique and beautiful Poems as Friends anthology, and to share insights on the life-changing power of poems as companions.


The Hideaway by Pam Smy

The wonderful long-awaited second novel from Pam Smy, celebrated author and illustrator of Thornhill. The Hideaway tells the story of a boy, Billy McKenna, who runs away from a difficult situation at home and takes refuge in an overgrown graveyard. While hiding there he meets an elderly man who is tending the graves in preparation for a day in November when something magical is set to happen…

Running our book cover design workshop on Sunday 26 May, Pam Smy is not only an expert illustrator but also the author of two graphic novels.


Clear by Carys Davies

A stunning, exquisite novel from an award-winning writer about a minister dispatched to a remote island off of Scotland to “clear” the last remaining inhabitant, who has no intention of leaving—an unforgettable tale of resilience, change, and hope.

Multi-award winning novelist Carys Davies joins us at the festival to discuss this novel, and its exploration of solitary landscapes, hidden selves and the intricacies of language.




Deception Island by Elizabeth Lewis Williams

Welcome to Deception Island, a tiny Volcanic caldera in the Antarctic Ocean. Here the rusting remains of industrial whaling and a seabed littered with whalebones testify to mankind’s greed and brutality. But the island is also an outpost of scientific exploration, witness to human attentiveness and fortitude. As the ship carrying the author’s father edges through the basalt cliffs into the calmer waters of Deception Island, the island’s many voices, human and non-human, begin to speak.

We’re delighted to host Elizabeth for a relaxed poetry workshop, where you will experiment with giving place a voice in your poetry.



Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J Lee

Between tectonic plates and conflicting cultures, Taiwan is an island of extremes: high mountains, exposed flatlands, thick forests. After unearthing a hidden memoir of her grandfather’s life, written on the cusp of his total memory loss, Jessica J Lee hunts his story, in parallel with exploring Taiwan, hoping to understand the quakes that brought her family from China, to Taiwan and Canada, and the ways in which our human stories are interlaced with geographical forces. Part-nature writing, part-biography, Two Trees Make a Forest traces the natural and human stories that shaped an island and a family.

The award-winning book that came before Dispersals. It will give you a flavour of Jessica’s poetic and intimate writing style. We can’t wait to hear Jessica’s discussions of finding a sense of home through plants and reconnecting to the land.


Delphi by Clare Pollard

Heartbreakingly relatable and achingly funny Delphi is both a snapshot and a time capsule, deftly capturing our pasts, our presents, and how we keep on going in a world that is ever more uncertain and absurd.

The debut from Clare Pollard, listed as a Guardian Best Book of 2022. Clare will be joining us with a panel event celebrating her new novel, The Modern Fairies, alongside debut novelist Ferdia Lennon.




One Fox by Kate Read

Counting from one to ten has never been so thrilling! One hungry fox with two sly eyes is on the prowl . . . three plump hens had better watch out! Rich and colorful illustrations plunge the reader into a dramatic and exciting story set in a moonlit farmyard. With something different to count on each page, this gripping tale introduces page-turning tension to young readers in an age-appropriate way. Great for early education and read alouds, this fun numbers introduction has a hugely satisfying ending that’s sure to delight!

Kate will be kicking off the City of Literature weekend with a family-friendly interactive storytelling session, to encourage a lifelong love of storytelling and of understanding different points of view.


Hold by Michael Donkor

Two girls, two different worlds, one unexpected friendship.

Belinda is everything a good Ghanaian housegirl should be. Diligent and uncomplaining, she knows exactly how to follow the rules. Amma has never been a great one for rule-keeping. And when her parents meet Belinda on a visit from England they suspect she might be just the shining example their wayward teenager daughter needs.

So Belinda must leave behind her old life and travel to London to befriend a girl who shows no desire for her company. But in this bewildering city, surprises are waiting down every bus route, and when the cracks in Amma’s defences open up, the secrets they have both been holding onto are brought into the light.

Michael will be joining us for a creative writing workshop and panel event, exploring writing conflict, crafting identities, and how familial ties and childhood events can affect the adult you become.


Hurtz by Jasmine Gardosi

Incredibly Hurtz is Jasmine Gardosi’s first foray into print. It is also a labour of love. A single poem, performable, readable on the subject of sound, colour and individual pain (physical but also and most notably emotional). Jasmine’s incredible piece helps launch our new Verve Poetry ‘Spoken Pamphlet’ series – in which Poets write for the page but with the full intention of bringing them into the performance arena.

We’re so excited for Jasmine to headline BURNT TOAST, an after hours slam poetry open mic.



City of Literature is a Norfolk & Norwich Festival and National Centre for Writing presentation, programmed by the National Centre for Writing. Find out more →

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