A novel approach to a Wizo lunch
Joanna Trollope, Giles Brandreth and Simon Sebag-Montefiore were the speakers at a literary lunch held by Wizo as part of its 90th anniversary celebrations at St John's Wood Synagogue on Tuesday.
The authors discussed their latest books and there was particular interest among the 230 diners in Mr Sebag-Montefiore's Sashenka, a fictional work based on his research into the privileged lives of the wives of Stalin's top henchmen, many of whom were Jewish. He said he had enjoyed his first foray into fiction, as it was "a relief to have the freedom to imagine characters".
Asked what questions he would liked to have put to Stalin, he replied: "I would have asked him who he thought his father was, whether he was an antisemite, what he thought he was doing killing all those people. I could go on forever."
Ms Trollope said that her loyal readership had given her the confidence to tackle issues she might once have shied away from. Mr Brandreth spoke about his fictional series featuring Oscar Wilde as a detective. Wizo's Angela Landau said the lunch was an apposite way to mark the anniversary, given the "educated, literary women" who founded the organisation.
The lunch raised over £20,000 for Wizo centres in Israel supporting disadvantaged children.