Cardiff BookTalk is delighted to invite you to our final in-person author event of 2023, Writing the City – Rachel Dawson and Emma Harding in conversation. Register for this free event on TicketSource. We are meeting at Cardiff University Special Collections which can be found at the Arts and Social Studies Library, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3LB as 7pm on Monday, 4 December 2023. This event is supported by Literature Wales’ Inspiring Communities Fund. Doors open at 6.30 for refreshments before we start.

There are, as the saying goes, a thousand stories in the naked city. In Writing the City we ask how novelists capture the essence of city life. What makes a city feel real on the page? Is it a question of research or an act of imagination? Do we start with witnesses, or archives? What cities are revealed through their character’s experiences? Can we talk of hidden cites, invisible cities, cities of the mind? In cities we carve out our lives, find work and search for community. Never static, they can also serve as arenas of conflict, desire and revelation, a jumble of the old and new, the strange and familiar.

Neon Roses by Rachel Dawson is a Queer coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of eighties Britain. Her protagonist, Eluned, experiences a sexual awakening when the fundraising group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners comes from London to her Valleys town to support the strike. Rachel Trezise describes Neon Roses as ‘a sexy, earthy and unashamedly bubbly debut that celebrates its sexuality and refuses to dull its Welshness or deny its social class’. Living in Cardiff, Dawson is a working class Lesbian writer from Swansea.

Emma Harding’s The Berliners is a complex, polyphonic novel about the interweaving histories of the inhabitants of an apartment building in Berlin, from the early 1900s to the present day. With a cast of voices including cabaret artists, occult investigators, reluctant pornographers, divorcees, housewives and terrorists, The Berliners was described by The Daily Telegraph as ‘an ingenious and ambitious debut, formally inventive, rich with character and incident’. Based in Cardiff, Harding also works as a writer and director for BBC Radio Drama.

The Berliners takes place in a single city against a wide sweep of history and weaves several narratives into a complex pattern, while Neon Roses follows a smaller cast of characters from the Welsh Valleys to the gay activist communities of London and Manchester. However, each book explores characters finding and sometimes losing themselves against the warp and weft of history, politics and sexuality. These debut novels have a great deal in common and will generate a lively and affirmative discussion which will include readings from both novels and an audience Q&A.

To make the most of the session, you may like to read Neon Roses by Rachel Dawson and The Berliners by Emma Harding.