Stroud Book Festival – Day 1 -Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile, Alice Jolly & Red Dog


With the impending lockdown it was a strange day to be working on Wednesday. The shop was lovely and busy and it was so nice to see so many customers. Getting home and having the opportunity to watch Caroline Sanderson interviewing Alice Jolly was the perfect way to wind down, with a glass of gin and tonic of course.

The novel is set in the five valleys of Stroud and Alice told us about her inspiration for character and setting. The novel follows Mary Ann Sate, an elderly maidservant who at the end of the nineteenth century has set out to write down her truth. With big changes, such as factories taking jobs from weavers etc., at the time the backdrop is an interesting part of history to present.

She spoke about how the times in the novel reflect today’s society with family lives changing, and the pressures and threats to everyday life. Mary throughout the novel becomes the main protagonist in her own story.

I was most interested by her discussion of the choice of ‘imbecile’ in her title and how this term during the 19th century covered fallen women, the disabled and those who really struggled to transcend their position in society.

The use of the Stroud dialect and vernacular made it an amazing choice for dramatisation – and Jolly in her novel allows the reader to see the poor taking back their language, allowing them to tell their story in their own voice. She spoke about how stories were more of an oral tradition which made it perfect for dramatising.

Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile was produced by Red Dog Productions and we were able to listen to the first of five instalments (four further 15-minute podcast episodes of “Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile” will be broadcast online each successive night of Stroud Book Festival (5th, 6th, 7th & 8th November) at 10pm.)

We are really looking forward to the dramatization being revealed over the next few days and after this first fantastic interview look forward to hearing more from all the authors that are involved in the festival.


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