As I wrote my novel, I realised that the story of Helena and Descartes goes to the heart of the way history records and prioritises the male experience over the female. By placing Helena’s story on a level with Descartes, my novel became a means to examine Helena’s invisibility both then and now.
Descartes is a significant historical figure in French philosophical thought; an international team is currently working on a new translation of his Correspondence. Although Descartes is still widely studied, little is known about the years before he published and almost nothing is known about Helena. The Words in My Hand tells the story of these hidden years and sheds light on a little known episode in his life. The novel is set against the backdrop of the Dutch Golden Age. Although this was a time of great change, the 1630s were a time of crisis for Descartes. Galileo was under house arrest and Descartes came close to destroying his work as a result.
I can talk about how I fictionalised Helena and Descartes’ story, the research process, drawing on examples from the Dutch archive and Descartes’ Correspondence. Telling the story from Helena’s point of view, shows her as a woman in her own right, with her own view of the world, and her own experiences and ideas. I hope the novel also reveals something new about Descartes too, showing him before he was great and how the relationship with Helena might have changed him.
The Words in My Hand was written with the support of a grant from Arts Council England. It was made The Times’ Book of Month, and described as a ‘startling debut’ by The Sunday Times.
I am happy to read from the novel and sign copies. Please contact Ruby Mitchell, Publicist, John Murray Press:
Peterborough Heritage Festival, 20th June, 7 p.m., author talk, (public event, tickets available here: https://www.vivacity-peterborough.com/whatson/library/the-words-in-my-hand/)
Words & Women, 6th June, 7.30 p.m. Launch of Anthology Four, La Raza, Cambridge, (public event, free): http://wordsandwomennorwich.blogspot.co.uk/p/cambridge-launch.html
Mulbarton Words Week, 5th June, 7.30 p.m. (public event, tickets available here: https://mulbartonwords.yapsody.com/event/index/90506/historical-fiction-authors)
Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award 2017 readings, 25th May, 7.30 p.m., Picadilly Waterstones (public event, tickets available here: https://www.waterstones.com/events/the-authors-club-best-first-novel-award-2017-readings/london-piccadilly)
Cambridge Writers’ Group talk, 2nd May 2017.
Waterstones, Amsterdam, 13th April, 2017 (public event).
Waterbeach Book Group, 8th March 2017.
Cambourne Library talk, March 1st, 2pm, 2017 (public event).
Waterbeach Wives’ Group talk, March 1st 2017.
Papworth Everard WI talk, 15th February 2017.
Huntingdon Library talk and book signing, 10th February, 2 p.m. (public event).
Histon Library talk and book signing, 9th February, 7 p.m. (public event)
Toppings Bookshop, Ely, with Francis Spufford and myself, 15th December, 7.30pm. Book tickets here:
Hadstock Book Club, Monday 21st November 2016.
Churchill College, University of Cambridge, talk to Creative Writing Group, 12th November, 2016.
University of Cambridge, Festival of Ideas, The Words in My Hand – in conversation with Dr Emma Gilby: October 22nd 2016. http://www.festivalofideas.cam.ac.uk/events/movements-between-fact-and-fiction
Waterbeach Book Club, 5th September 2016.
Novel London – reading at Islington Waterstones, July 1st, 2016.
Cambridge Book Club, June 28th 2016.
21st Century Women, interview:
The Literary Consultancy, Writers’ Day and Pen Factor 2016 award: June 11th 2016
Telling it Live St.Ives, April 2016
Saffron Walden Book Club, April 2016
Skenfrith Book Club, March 2016
Huntingdon Independent Bookshop, March 2016.
Perth Writers Festival, February 2016.
Delighted to announce that I have been asked to speak at Perth Writers Festival in February 2016, as part of Perth International Arts Festival. Details of the events can be found here: https://perthfestival.com.au/perth-writers-festival/authors/guinevere-glasfurd/
For queries about publicity and events in the UK, please contact:
John Murray Press