Marlborough LitFest 2019: announcing Joanne Harris, two Hiscox Debut Authors & the book for the Big Town Read

Written by Tony Millett on .

Joanne Harris    (Photo:  Kyte Photography)Joanne Harris (Photo: Kyte Photography)New names added to this year’s Marlborough LitFest line-up include the ever-popular Joanne Harris, debut authors Elizabeth Macneal and Stacey Halls, and the choice for this year’s Big Town Read: The Salt Path by Raynor Winn.


The tenth Marlborough LitFest will take place over the weekend of 26-29 September 2019.

Author Joanne Harris will be talking about her latest book, The Strawberry Thief - the fourth in her series of novels that began 20 years ago with the bestselling Chocolat

The Strawberry Thief continues the story of Vianne Rocher and her daughters, Anouk and Rosette, in the French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, where Vianne runs her chocolate shop in the square.

Joanne is an Anglo-French writer, whose books include 14 novels, two cookbooks as well as many short stories. Her work is diverse, covering aspects of magic realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. 

Chocolat (1999) sold over a million copies in the UK alone and became a global bestseller.  


The film adaptation (2000) starred Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp

The annual Debut Authors event, sponsored by Hiscox Insurance, has become a festival favourite.  LitFest seeks to encourage its audiences to engage with emerging writing talent - not just with established names. 

Elizabeth Macneal (Photo: Mat Smith Photography)Elizabeth Macneal (Photo: Mat Smith Photography)Stacey Halls (Photo: Ollie Groves)Stacey Halls (Photo: Ollie Groves)This year’s debut authors are:  Elizabeth Macneal with her debut novel, The Doll Factory, due out on 2 May, and Stacey Halls whose first novel, The Familiars, has already made the bestseller lists. 

Elizabeth Macneal is not just a writer, but acclaimed ceramicist.  Her work has been acquired by The Museum of London for their permanent collection and she was recently named by The Evening Standard as one of “five British ceramicists you should know about”. 

The Doll Factory is set in 1850s London and is a story of painting, collecting, love, obsession and possession. It won the Caledonia Novel Award 2018 and the film and TV rights have already been sold.


The Observer touted Elizabeth as one of its hottest-tipped debut novelists of 2019. 

Stacey Halls has always been fascinated by the history of seventeenth century witchcraft in her home county of Lancashire - especially the notorious trials of the so called ‘Pendle Witches’. 


Set in 1612 in Lancaster, The Familiars explores the lives and rights of women of the time as they fight against accusations and superstition - set against the historical backdrop of the Pendle Witch Trials.


This year’s Big Town Read is The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. As part of its aim to bring the best in good writing to the town, every year Marlborough LitFest, in partnership with national charity The Reading Agency and with the support of local libraries, choose a novel which is suggested for local book groups and individuals to read, ahead of the author appearing at LitFest. 

Raynor WinnRaynor WinnThe Salt Path tells of a homeless, penniless, jobless couple walking the 630 miles of the South West Coast Path, from Minehead in Somerset, to Poole in Dorset. The couple’s lack of money is the least of their worries: the day after they lost their home, Moth, Raynor’s husband, is diagnosed with a rare degenerative brain disease. 

Their walk is both defiant and life-affirming - the more they walk, the more they feel drawn to, and part of, nature. The Salt Path was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award 2018. 

Free copies of the book will be available from Marlborough Library over the summer. In previous years, readers have returned their copies to the library for others to read after them.

The Big Town Read has proved popular with audiences - particularly local book groups - who enjoy the group discussion feel of the event and the ability to have a Q&A session with the author. 

Previous Big Town Read authors have included Laline Paull, Sathnam Sanghera, Jackie Kay, Rachel Joyce, Elizabeth Buchan and Chris Cleave.

Genevieve Clarke, who works for The Reading Agency, is Chair of Marlborough LitFest: “The Big Town Read has proved to be a great way to get people talking about a particular book over the summer."


"We really hope that The Salt Path will draw in our regular audience, but also those who wouldn’t think of coming to a book festival. It’s an inspirational read and we’re so lucky to have Raynor Winn coming to talk about it.”

Marlborough LitFest will be celebrating its first decade with an especially exciting line-up of speakers as well as outreach activities to engage new audiences.

The full 2019 programme will be available in late June and tickets go on sale in early July. For more information, visit