Book for City Reads 2018 revealed

Rose Tremain's Sacred Country chosen for city-wide 'big read' as part of Brighton Festival (Photograph: David Kirkham)
Rose Tremain's Sacred Country chosen for city-wide 'big read' as part of Brighton Festival (Photograph: David Kirkham)

A city-wide book group during the Brighton Festival has unveiled the title of this year’s chosen tome.

Rose Tremain’s ‘Sacred Country’ will be this year’s ‘City Read’.

Sacred Country

Sacred Country

City Read is run by Collected Works CIC and Brighton Festival each year, and the concept is simple: one book, by one author, is selected for the whole community to read, explore, discuss and creatively engage with.

Sacred Country tells the story of Mary Ward who one day stands shivering in a Suffolk, England field in February 1952 and realises she is meant to be a boy. She is six years old. From its opening pages Sacred Country vows to take the reader on a compelling literary journey through Mary’s fight to become Martin. Spanning three decades, from the oppressive English countryside of the 1950s, to London in the Swinging Sixties, to 1970s America, Sacred Country follows Mary in her plight to find a place of safety and fulfilment in a savage and confusing world.

Fox Fisher, Brighton-based trans artist and activist, said: “As a trans person myself, I never saw trans characters in books (or in ‘real life’, for that matter) growing up.

“Although Sacred Country is written by an author that isn’t trans, I was utterly gripped with the storyline and characters.

“The audiobook is read by a trans man which adds to the authenticity and is an example of the level of care and consideration when creating this book.

“As a film-maker, I could really visualise how well this would translate to a feature length fiction. And when the time comes, I hope the person to make the film is me!”

Rose Tremain said: “I’m delighted that Sacred Country has been chosen for Brighton City Reads. It seems to me that this city, with its long tradition of tolerance and its talent for celebration is a place where Mary/Martin could have found happiness. To make this book live again for Brighton readers will be an honour.”

Sarah Hutchings, artistic director of City Reads, said: “Sacred Country tells the compelling story of Mary, born in the wrong body and their arduous journey to become Martin.

“Despite being written in 1992, Sacred Country is a novel that deserves to be re-discovered as it is still a hugely relevant work.

“Mary’s story is told with skill, compassion and empathy.

“Rose Tremain is one of the UK’s most respected writers and we are delighted to be welcoming her to Brighton and Hove in May to discuss this groundbreaking novel with readers across the City.’

Andrew Comben, chief executive of Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival, said: “We are delighted that City Reads is part of Brighton Festival again this year - building on our strong relationship with Collected Works through other partnership projects such as Young City Reads and Adopt an Author. To have a writer of the calibre of Rose Tremain as our selected author is particularly exciting and we look forward to people reading and enjoying the book together over the coming months.”

From its launch on World Book Night (April 23) to the final event at Brighton Festival on May 13, there is a wide range of activities on offer as part of City Reads, aimed at encouraging residents across the city to get reading and start talking.

Highlights include: the return of the Booky Photo Booth at Jubilee Library (April 23 to May 5); the ever popular City Reads Book Quiz on April 25 in Lewes, and Brighton on May 2; crime writer William Shaw’s Impromptu Book Group podcast on April 26; themed film screenings at Jubilee Library and Depot (Lewes); and Rose Tremain live at Brighton Festival for the City Reads finale on May 13.

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