Review: Joanna Trollope and Fernanda Torres: A Meeting of Minds, Flipside Festival, Snape Maltings, October 3

Joanna Trollope who was a guest at the Flipside Festival at Snape. Photo: Veronique Rowland

Joanna Trollope who was a guest at the Flipside Festival at Snape. Photo: Veronique Rowland

Flipside’s first Encounter promised to be ‘A Meeting of Minds’ and it didn’t disappoint.

Bestselling British author Joanna Trollope and Brazilian actor turned novelist Fernanda Torres conducted a warm discussion about their work, inspiration and writing practice.

Their particular focus was Joanna’s most recent novel Balancing Act, about a woman juggling a pottery business with family life, and Fernanda’s debut book The End, which chronicles each of the last five minutes in the lives of a group of men from Rio de Janeiro.

For budding writers in the audience there was plenty of insight into the way the two women crafted their work.

The contrast between seasoned novelist Joanna and debut-author Fernanda meant that there was much to explore. From whether you should even start writing a book if you don’t know how it’s going to end, to how much research to undertake, to the way that books are currently marketed.

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The most interesting aspect of the discussion was the way that talking about their work highlighted similarities and differences in Brazilian and British cultures.

On the face of it, the two novels seem worlds apart. However, they both offer an exploration of middle class life in each country.

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Whilst Joanna talked of how ‘the middle class English will do all sorts of mean and deceitful things... as long as they think no one’s looking’, Fernanda explained how the social veneer simply isn’t present in Brazilian culture. Emotions reveal themselves in very different ways.

I’ve heard Joanna talk about Balancing Act at another festival and, though this was a conversation with successful potter, and inspiration for the novel, Emma Bridgewater,

I have to say that I much preferred this discussion with Fernanda. This Flipside event was a more well-rounded and self-aware exploration of middle class life and helped me better understand Joanna’s intentions as a writer.

Early on in the talk Joanna commented that: ‘The whole point of my novels is not me telling you what to think, it’s saying ‘why don’t you have a conversation about it?’’

This goes some way to summing-up Flipside as a whole. It brings together authors from different backgrounds in discussions that bring a greater depth to their work than if they were speaking alone. You don’t have to listen to Flipside encounters for very long before seeing that, though some things are unique to different cultures, a great many more are universal.

Family, relationships, money, class, ambition... the list could continue. Understanding the history and politics of a country will help us understand its mind. For its heart, you must look to the Arts and literature’s always a very revealing place to start.

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