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Seeking solace in women writers: Nell Stevens with Katharine Smyth

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How do women writers of the past speak to us now? Join literary critic Lucy Scholes with authors Katharine Smyth and Nell Stevens as they discuss how the work of Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Gaskell have respectively influenced their writing and their lives.

Katharine Smyth is the author of All the Lives We Ever Lived. She was a student at Oxford when she first read Virginia Woolf's modernist masterpiece To the Lighthouse in the comfort of an English sitting room, and in the companionable silence she shared with her father. After his death – a calamity that claimed her favourite person – she returned to that beloved novel as a way of wrestling with his memory and understanding her own grief.

Nell Stevens is the author of Mrs Gaskell and Me. In 2013, she was studying for her PhD when she found her life bearing parallels to that of Elizabeth Gaskell’s. It is a story of unrequited love and the romance of friendship, about forming a way of life outside the conventions of your time, and it offers Nell the opportunity – even as her own relationship falls apart – to give Mrs Gaskell the ending she deserved.