Salt Brand New Reads

Salt Brand New Reads

Event: Salt Brand New Reads 

Venue: Waterstones Piccadilly 

Report by Eleanor Baggley

Sometimes I find myself questioning why I live in London. The crush of people, the oppressive heat and the inability to walk in a straight line down the pavement threatens my enjoyment of this city almost daily. Thankfully an evening at Waterstones’s Piccadilly branch is enough to remind me why London, with its rich literary landscape, is a fantastic place to be.

Salt Publishing contributed to this landscape wonderfully last week as they celebrated four of their debut authors. The evening saw readings from V.H. Leslie, author of ‘Bodies of Water’, Guy Ware, author of ‘The Fat of Fed Beasts’, Wyl Menmuir, author of the Man Booker long listed ‘The Many’, and Stephanie Victoire whose collection of short stories, ‘The Other World, It Whispers’, is due to be released later this year.

Christopher Hamilton-Emery, co-founder of Salt, introduced the authors and, at the request of the audience, spoke a little bit about how Salt began. It’s an unusual feeling being so close to the heart and soul of a publisher, and this thoroughly reinforced my own appreciation of their work.

Guy Ware kicked off proceedings with a reading from his 2015 debut, ‘The Fat of Fed Beasts’, which is a ‘linguistically rich metaphysical novel’ according to Hamilton-Emery. Ware read from two sections of the novel to give the audience a taste of more than one of the characters’ perspectives. I was struck by how original his style is and how distinguishable each narrative voice seemed to be.

Supernatural

Stephanie Victoire followed Ware with a reading from her forthcoming collection of short stories. As she read it became apparent exactly why Hamilton-Emery had spoke of her writing as ‘astonishing short stories that deal with the afterlife and whispers from another world’. The supernatural element of Victoire’s work shines through, but if the extract we heard was anything to go by, the collection will delicately explore themes of family, religion, sexuality and identity.

Wyl Menmuir’s reading was arguably the most highly anticipated of the evening. Since the announcement of the long list for the Man Booker prize Menmuir’s novel, ‘The Many’, sold out in countless bookshops around the country and leapt straight into the limelight. His reading plunged us deep into the isolated village the novel’s protagonist, Timothy, moves to and demonstrated in a very short space of time quite how sophisticated and layered the novel is. Hamilton-Emery talked effusively about The Many and how ‘everyone takes their own experience into the book, it means different things to different people.’

Bodies of Water

Bodies of Water

‘Bodies of Water’: a ‘dark and chilling tale’.

Personally, Victoria Leslie’s reading from her novel ‘Bodies of Water’ was the high point of the evening. Leslie spoke briefly about the novel and its background before reading two extracts from this ‘dark and chilling tale’. She struck upon the idea whilst researching the nineteenth century; she was surprised by the number of paintings of women in water that were being produced at the same time as there was a record number of female suicides in the Thames. Water, mythology and the role of women in the nineteenth century were the overarching themes of Leslie’s chosen extracts, explored in vivid prose and through memorable characters.

What struck me most about this event is also what thrills me most about Salt, and that is it’s diverse catalogue. The variety of voices, styles, histories and points of view on offer in these four works alone was stunning. I left Waterstones with a brand new book (I couldn’t resist V.H. Leslie’s ‘Bodies of Water’), and three others noted down on my ‘must read soon’ list. Salt continue to impress me with the books they publish and I very much look forward to hearing from their debut authors in the future.

Report by Eleanor Baggley

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