Last Friday, I spent a fabulous day in Cambridge going to one of the Cambridge Literary Festival talks and exploring the city and beautiful colleges. It was so much fun to hop on a train at King’s Cross and be in Cambridge 45 minutes later. Out of all the ways to travel, going by train is definitely my favourite. I always pack a few snacks and a good book, and it’s a great way to enjoy some quiet time to myself, without feeling like I should be getting on with something supposedly more productive instead.
I was so excited to attend the Cambridge Literary Festival event, which was a discussion between Priya Parmer and Philippa Gregory, centring on Priya’s latest novel Vanessa and Her Sister and historical fiction writing as a whole. I’ll be publishing a review of Vanessa and Her Sister later this week and will also write a little more about the Cambridge event then, but for now I’ll say that I was absolutely fascinated by the conversation between Philippa and Priya. I have to admit that, in general, historical fiction is definitely not my genre, although I am very interested in the first half of the 20th Century and am fascinated by the Bloomsbury Group, so Vanessa and Her Sister was definitely my cup of tea. I was, however, completely engrossed by the authors’ discussion of the difficulties surrounding writing novels which are historically sound, but still allow creative interpretation and freedom, and of their own experience in imagining a world now past. I’m tempted to try reading some more historical fiction and will definitely start with a Philippa Gregory novel. Do any of you have any specific recommendations for which of her novels I should try first?
After the talk, I met up with my friend Arthur, who very kindly agreed to show me around Cambridge a little. I’d been to Cambridge once before, but a few years ago, so it was great to have some company. Arthur is an old friend from London, but as he spent a year doing his Masters in Cambridge, he knows the area well and was the perfect guide. He took me on a tour of some of the colleges (Magdalene and St John’s were, I thought, especially lovely), and it was wonderful to catch up whilst exploring such a beautiful city on a sunny spring day. Blossom and daffodils seemed to be around every corner, and people were taking advantage of the sunshine to punt along the river. It was beautifully picturesque, and of course I had to pull my camera out!
Isn’t Cambridge gorgeous? I know April in Paris is all the rage, but April in Cambridge certainly isn’t too shabby either. After all our walking about, we were ready for a cup of tea at Fitzbillies, which is apparently quite the Cambridge institution and particularly famed for its Chelsea buns. Although I was tempted by the impressive display of cakes, I contented myself with a pot of peppermint tea before catching the train back to London. Spending a day in Cambridge was so much fun, I can’t wait to go back again sometime soon.
Have any of you been to the Cambridge Literary Festival, or explored the city at all? Do you have any tips for when I next visit? I’d love to know!