Comic Janey Godley takes to the stage at the Mitchell Library as part of the Books That Made Me series for this year’s Aye Write Festival. Chaired by Theresa Talbot, the hour covers Godley’s reading habits, some of her favourite novels, her life, and of course, her cracking sense of humour.
Godley tells the audience that she was a voracious reader as a child and still reads at least a book per week. Her first selection for the discussion is Eve Garnett’s The Family From One End Street, a childhood favourite that stays with Godley thanks to its representation of working class families in the 1930s. This leads to an interesting discussion of the idea of recognition of oneself in media and the comedian’s relatively fond memories of her childhood despite the poverty she grew up surrounded by.
From here, the interview inevitably transforms into more of a comedy show as Godley can’t help but slip into her well-known stand-up mode, hilariously chatting to the audience as latecomers arrive before we are steered back on track to the next literary selection – Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer, a crime novel featuring an amateur detective with Asperger syndrome. As well as providing a gripping storyline and fascinating central character, the novel also resonates with Godley as her husband is on the autistic spectrum.
This leads to a chat about Godley’s life, marriage and work – thoroughly entertaining of course – but after 45 minutes it does become apparent that only two books have been covered. Compressed into the final quarter of the session are hurried mentions of more literary favourites: Faking Friends by Jane Fallon, Birdman by Mo Hayder, and Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson. Godley also briefly discusses the writing of her successful autobiography, Handstands in the Dark, and how, contrary to typical assumptions, it wasn’t cathartic to write at all, since she’d already processed many of the harrowing issues the book covers.
As the hour draws to a close, one of its most touching aspects is revisited – the joy of sharing books, as Godley discusses her and her daughter’s reading habits and discussion of novels. It’s a trait she shared with her own mother while growing up and the notion of reading as a connective act between generations is a warming note to end on.