Paula McLain and Katherine Ashenburg at the Grimsby Author Series last Friday

What better way to kick off summer than a late spring Grimsby Author Series event? Last Friday we had our last ‘At the Library’ event of the 2017-18 season with acclaimed authors Paula McLain and Katherine Ashenburg. Peller Estates provided delicious tastings of two of their wines, the aromatic and full bodied 2016 Private Reserve Cabernet Franc 2016 and the fresh and lively 2016 Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.

The intimate crowd enjoyed a relaxing night in the air conditioning (away from the heat!) with two wonderful female authors whose books have been added to TBR piles and book club lists all over the country. Bestselling author Paula McLain read from her new book Love and Ruin, and Katherine Ashenburg, an award-winning non-fiction writer, read from her debut fiction novel Sofie and Cecilia. An evening of parallels, both talks featured powerful love stories and friendships, deeply creative people, exciting moments in history, and strong-willed women in relationships with overbearing men.

 

Katherine Ashenburg

Starting the night off was Katherine Ashenburg. An acclaimed non-fiction writer, lecturer and teacher, and a former CBC radio producer and Globe and Mail arts and books editor, it’s fair to say that Katherine has tried her hand at a few different careers. Debut novelist is one of her latest vocations, and it was a true privilege to have her at the Grimsby Library to talk about her first work of fiction, Sofie and Cecilia.

Writing this book, Katherine admits, was not exactly in her comfort zone. Inspired by two sets of real-life husband and wife artists in Sweden at the turn of the century, this book could have easily turned into her latest non-fiction award winner. Carl and Karin Larsson were artists living and working in Sundborn, Sweden in the late 1800’s. Katherine was always a fan of the Larssons’ work and their famous painted house, and on a trip to visit the site, a surprising discovery about their marriage planted the seed for what would eventually become this story. Learning about the couple’s friendship with fellow artists Anders and Emma Zorn, Katherine began to explore the dynamics of husband-wife relationships and the power of life-long female friendships. As the book evolved, Katherine ventured away from just investigating the facts, and the story became more about revealing home truths and insights into life and love.

This novel is beautifully researched however, and it is what gives Sofie and Cecilia a solid backbone. Katherine explores rich and sophisticated ideas against the fascinating background of the Scandinavian modernist art movement, while authentically capturing the emotions and perspectives of her characters. As a debut work of fiction, this enjoyable and thoroughly satisfying read is really something special, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for this author.

 

Paula McLain

As one of the only American authors to speak at the Grimsby Author Series, something about Paula McLain keeps us calling her back up north. She was in Grimsby for the second time in 3 years (third time since 2012) to speak about her latest book Love and Ruin. A follow up of sorts to her acclaimed bestseller, The Paris Wife – an evocative fictionalized biography of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson – this book masterfully captures the life of his third wife, Martha Gellhorn. Now, before we lump her in to the category of just “one of Hemingway’s wives”, we should stop, and make no mistake, because Martha Gellhorn was a badass, and she was never just a footnote in his life.

Paula McLain has a knack for writing about badass women. Hadley in her own right earned the title, and Beryl West, the heroine in her last book Circling the Sun, was one of the best of them. But Martha Gellhorn deserves a special place in history as one of the most significant and distinguished female war correspondents of the 20th century, and was the only one who had a 60-year career into her 80’s covering almost every major conflict. Martha had real courage, intellect and ambition; a strong will that butted heads with her famous husband. With beautiful prose and rapturous style Paula pulls you into Martha’s story with her accessible writing and compelling voice. She makes history come alive through her eyes, and we can’t get enough!

Door prizes were raffled off at the end of the night as well which included fabulous items from our sponsors Cole’s FloristsObjects to Desire, and Stacy Heidman of Steeped Tea. A big thank you to all of these contributors, and to Forks Road Pottery and Peller Estates for providing our guest speakers with their wonderful gifts.

Thanks to all of our awesome volunteers, sponsors and benefactors for another amazing season! We could not do it without you, and are so appreciative of all of our support and generosity throughout the years. We look forward to next season and working with you again!

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