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Festival Book Club

Jane Austen Persuasion

UCL Festival of Culture Book Club is a partnership between UCL and Waterstones, and will run at lunchtime daily in Waterstones Gower Street throughout the week of the festival.

We'll be talking about a different novel each day. All of our selected novels, including Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, On The Road, and Persuasion, are celebrating an anniversary this year, from 1817 through to 1997.

Join us each day as we take a look back at each of these novels.


Monday 5 June

Festival Book Club: Persuasion | 12:30 - 13:30

Persuasion is Jane Austen’s final novel, and was published at the end of 1817, six months after her death. It is a story of second chances: eight years after being persuaded to break off her engagement to Captain Frederick Wentworth, Anne Elliott meets her former fiancé on his return from the Napoleonic Wars. Join us to share your views on the story and on Austen’s satirical depiction of 19th century English society and manners.

Listen to Professor Helen Hackett (UCL English) read a passage from the novel.


Tuesday 6 June

Festival Book Club: Thérèse Raquin | 12:30 - 13:30

Thérèse Raquin, set in the grim backstreets of 19th century Paris, is a story of betrayal and murder, and a study of temperament. It was Emile Zola's first major work, originally published in serial format in 1867 in the journal L'Artiste. Due to its widespread popularity, it was published in book format in 1868, and gained notoriety after being described as “putrid literature" by a contemporary critic, Louis Ulbach. Join us to discuss the book and its timelessly provocative questions about the relationship between science, literature, and morality.

Dr Isabelle Moreau (UCL School of European Languages, Culture and Society) reads a passage from the novel.

Find out more and book your place.


Wednesday 7 June

Festival Book Club: Their Eyes Were Watching God | 12:30 - 13:30

Originally published in 1937, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God was out of print for almost thirty years following initial reactions to its depiction of a strong black female protagonist. The novel was reissued to critical acclaim in 1978. Lyrical, vibrant, and deeply soulful, the novel tells the story of a young woman’s journey to adulthood, and is considered to be one of the most important and enduring works of African-American literature. Join us over lunchtime to discuss this evocative and influential novel.

Dana Kovaric (UCL English) reads a passage from the novel.


Thursday 8 June

Festival Book Club: On The Road | 12:30 - 13:30

Jack Kerouac’s quintessentially American novel about the youthful desire for adventure was published in 1957. On The Road is emblematic of the Beat Generation: a bold, expressive and bohemian new literary and cultural movement which rejected capitalism and the perceived prudery of post-war American society. Sal Paradise, Kerouac’s alter-ego, is a young writer who decides to travel America in search of inspiration for his novels. Join us to discuss this iconic novel’s representation of adventure, passionate friendship and the search for revelation.

Rob Eagle (UCL Communications & Marketing) reads a passage from the novel.


Friday 9 June

Festival Book Club: Pinic at Hanging Rock | 12:30 - 13:30

Joan Lindsay’s 1967 novel tells the mysterious story of three schoolgirls and their teacher who vanish during a day out at Hanging Rock, a spectacular geological attraction in the Australian state of Victoria. The haunting novel is widely considered to have been based on a true story, and is one of the most critically-acclaimed and popular works of 20th century Australian literature. Join us to discuss the novel’s mysterious plot and its atmospheric Australian setting, and to consider what really happened that day at Hanging Rock…

Laura Hewison (UCL Communications & Marketing) reads a passage from the novel.


Saturday 10 June

Festival Book Club: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone | 12:30 - 13:30

It hardly seems like 20 years since an unassuming young boy called Harry Potter was liberated from a cupboard under the stairs of his uncle’s house to become a global phenomenon. JK Rowling’s seven enchanting novels about Harry Potter’s adventures became instant classics, and have sold over 450 million copies worldwide across 74 languages. Join us at the very start of Harry’s adventures, as he enrols at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and begins to learn about his magical heritage…

John Bilton Third Year Student (UCL Archaeology) reads a passage from the novel.

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