Her work is certainly not airport fiction, but she is still a big name in the literary world, having produced some excellent work and winning the WHSmiths Fiction Award and a Booker shortlisting along the way. It was thus highly disappointing to see empty seats.
In some ways though it almost added to the deeply personal feel of the event. Roberts read segments from her recently published memoirs ‘Paper Houses’, and answered questions about her socialist, femininist libertarianism and her often fraught relationship with her late but dearly loved mother.
Roberts’s treatment of her past self as almost another person entirely, ‘a daughter’ as she put it, was intriguing, as was her honesty and reflection on a nomadic life in a series of free-thinking and idealistic London communes.
The memoirs are an attempt to rehabilitate the perception of the late sixties and seventies in England, after what Robert sees as a dismissal in the eyes of the general populus of what was achieved, and the changes made to society in that bohemian era.
The reading at times felt directed at the professors in attendance, prioritising the more emotionally complex parts of the book over effervescent passages on her revelatory time at university, outlandish demonstrations and her sexual discovery.
Interestingly, she informed the audience of her none-too warm view of Virginia Woolf’s novels, which she criticised as having full presence of mind, but little discernible sensual body. What cannot be denied, however, is that we were treated to a real insight into the life of a supremely talented and generous author in an enjoyable reading imbued with her inimitable joie de vivre.