Book Review: The Writer’s Festival, by Stephanie Johnson

cv_the_writers_FestivalIn this, a loose follow-up to her previous novel, The Writing Class, Stephanie Johnson turns her attention to the highlight of many readers and writers calendars: The Writer’s Festival.

Despite the fact that she was one of the founders of the Auckland Writer’s Festival with Peter Wells in the late 90’s and has had years of insider knowledge both behind the scenes and out front as a guest, she steadfastly maintains that this is a work of fiction.

Such a pity, because one could have lots of fun speculating exactly who she could be alluding to with these tales of sordid bitching, backstabbing and petty jealousy. It’s all there: publicists traipsing after visiting authors on their best and worst behaviour; an economic crisis threatened by China should a dissident writer speak; secret identities exposed and the age old question of just how small an industry IS it in NZ? Just another year at the fictitious Oceania Writer’s Festival.

With new characters rubbing shoulders with those from The Writing Class, The Writer’s Festival is a fun read; one that made me go back and re-read The Writing Class because I wanted to, not because I needed to.

Like all good humour though, there is more than a kernel of truth to it and you can’t help but feel a little bit sad for the characters, all of them desperately clinging onto something, that in the grand scheme of things, might not be much at all. And from an author with so much experience in the industry, you can’t help but wonder if that’s what she’s really trying to say.

4 Stars

Reviewed by Sarah McMullan

The Writer’s Festival
by Stephanie Johnson
Penguin Random House
ISBN 9781775537984