Writers at Charleston Festival look at forbidden romance and its aftermath

Amy Bloom. Picture by Elena Seibert
Amy Bloom. Picture by Elena Seibert

This year’s Charleston Festival programme (May 18-28) is set to lift the lid on an old White House scandal and the campaign that turned the tide on the AIDS epidemic.

Two new books about sex at the White House – long before a more permissive age – throw a light on the secret love affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and top American journalist Lorena Hickok.

Sylvia Brownrigg. Picture by Claire Lewis

Sylvia Brownrigg. Picture by Claire Lewis

Amy Bloom’s White Houses tells how Roosevelt and Hickok met when the journalist was sent to interview the wife of the Presidential candidate.

Sylvia Brownrigg’s book Pages for Her centres around an unexpected reunion between the two women many years later, which reignites the attraction between them. The two writers will discuss past and present sexual mores with Diana Souhami, winner of the Whitbread Award for Biography.

Chance Encounters is at Charleston on Friday, May 25, at 12.30pm.

Later in the day David France will discuss his book How to Survive a Plague, with human rights activist Peter Tatchell.

The book, which won the Baillie Gifford Prize for non-fiction, is the deeply moving account of the AIDS epidemic. It looks at the way gay activists joined forces with doctors, public health officials and research scientists for a campaign that led to the development of drugs, which transformed HIV from a mostly fatal infection to a manageable disease.

How to Survive a Plague is at Charleston on May 25, at 7.30pm.

Earlier in the month, prize-winning author Alan Hollinghurst discusses his latest novel, The Sparsholt Affair, with writer and literary critic Charlotte Mendelson.

The book evokes the intimate relationships between a group of friends across three generations, from the Second World War to contemporary London.

The Sparsholt Affair is at Charleston on Friday, May 18, at 7.30pm.

For the full programme and to book tickets visit charleston.org.uk/festival or pick up a brochure from outlets across the county.

Telephone bookings on 01323 815150 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm).

There is a shuttle bus service to and from all events between Lewes train station and Charleston.

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