BIG READ author S K Perry lines up Brighton Festival appearance

SK Perry  Naomi Woddis
SK Perry Naomi Woddis

S K Perry’s lyrical meditation on loss, Let Me Be Like Water, has been this year’s BIG READ for Brighton & Hove.

She will be discussing it for the Brighton Festival on Sunday, May 12 at 5.30pm at Brighton and Hove High School (tickets £8) when she will be in conversation with Bridget Minamore.

Sarah Perry – who writes as S K Perry – is originally from Croydon and currently living in Leeds, but Let Me Be Like Water is a book set in Brighton, a place which has always been close to her heart.

In the book, having impulsively escaped to Brighton following the death of her boyfriend Sam, songwriter Holly is now in a state of limbo.

The solitude she had so craved in London leaves her feeling stranded and alone in her grief. It is when she meets Frank, a retired gay magician that the tide begins to turn. Frank has experienced his own heartbreak and offers Holly companionship and solace.

Gradually, as she is introduced to his eclectic group of friends, all with their own stories, she starts to heal.

“The protagonist Holly is living in West London when her partner dies suddenly and she understandably doesn’t want to carry on living in the house, so she packs everything up and moves to Brighton,” Sarah says.

“I wanted to write a book set in Brighton. I love Brighton. I spent a lot of time in Brighton through my childhood. It was near. I grew up in Croydon, and Brighton was the nearest bit of coast. We would get in the car and go down to Brighton.

“I love the sea. I have always loved being by the sea, but Brighton itself has also got a thriving arts scene. It is politically active with a Green MP and the town itself feels quite engaged.

“There is a massive queer scene as well as the fact that you have got the seaside. I grew up loving the pier and I still do.

“For Holly, it is quite a big decision to up and leave and really to cut off her support network. She does not really engage with family and friends for quite a while, and I think that is a coping mechanism to grief, not to want to be around people who are also experiencing it. But she doesn’t entirely go down that self-destructive route.

“She is not going somewhere she doesn’t speak the language. She is not going somewhere she can’t get back from by train.

“But I do think a lot of people do find a lot of comfort in difficult situations from being near the coast, and that’s something that the book does explore. There is this sense of the sea as a bit of a character in the book.

“The novel is in the first person, but it is written to Sam, the partner that died. It is written as her talking to him about what she is going through and I think the sea plays quite a big part in that. She will go down to the sea and sit by it and stay there all night.

“It is big and it is scary, but it is also beautiful. It is also hypnotic and repetitive and also constantly changing, just like grief itself.

“The novel is a work of fiction, but as a writer you are looking to write about things that people can relate to. Everybody experiences grief at some point.

“My specific interest in writing this book was about Holly who is only 23 and I think that idea of writing into grief in young adulthood is not something that a lot of people have done.

“I researched grief, and I think grief in young adulthood is experienced rather more differently to grief at a later point in life.”

Other book events coming up include:

Bring Me In, Tuesday, May 14, Brighton Dome Founders Room. Performance and networking event that aims to make theatre for everyone.

The New Dystopians, Wednesday, May 15. Brighton and Hove High School. Season Butler and Joanne Ramos read from their dystopian debut novels.

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