Fifty years have gone by since both the publication of The Bell Jar and the sad passing away of troubled writer Sylvia Plath; it is thus no surprise to be stepping into the 1950s, guzzling down “shrivelled figs” and “avocados stuffed with crabmeat.”
There is a clear sense of the time placement in this dining room, hosted at the charismatic Bush Hall, a venue renowned for championing new talent, an energy Plath and Esther Greenwood would favour. There is comfort to be sought in the gourmet and fine literature littering this dining hall.
Adding a special touch, albeit strange to some, the organisers were equipped with actors and experts, reading through the voice of Miss Greenwood, taking questions from its diners, curious to explore both the novel and the author.
Andrew Wilson, biographer and author of Mad Girl’s Love Song, was on hand to reveal unexpected truths about the impassioned story-teller, whilst Bess Roche was laying down her best Bostonian accent to embellish the novel, articulating the exquisite delicacies that Esther Greenwood would cosset whilst in finer company.
These elements of the evening satisfied the audiences’ thirst for knowledge, enhancing the flavour of the fig molasses, filling that “profound void of an empty stomach.”
Blatantly, an evening such as this, with the gourmet assistance from the fine folks at the Dirty Apron Cooking School, is ideal for foodies and avid book readers.
After dining, Holland admits that her mind flits to the fripperies in novels, thereby striving to establish and build The Novel Diner, previously hosting intriguing dinners revolving around an eclectic list of tomes; American Psycho, The Great Gatsby and most notably To the Lighthouse were a few from the more successful socials. Co-founder, Claire Coutinho, reassures that they only choose novels where the food plays an important role.
Is there a market for this type of evening? Holland assures me that with five years or so of underground supper clubs in London proving fashionable (and let’s not forget the love of the more literary to orbit entire Halloween parties with nought but the memorable characters that sit on their bookshelves) that she is getting a fantastic reception to her evenings, attracting a diverse range of people; “there is a strange fusion of people that come entirely depending on the theme of the event.”
They are certainly tapping into an interesting market, key in London where residents seek out the pop up, but it was notable that this night was one of transition for The Novel Diner girls.
Although Holland’s family were still present (these nights began with entertaining those dear to them, friends, colleagues and family) there was a real buzz about the evening. Plath fans were keen to bite into an avocado or two, food aficionados had a craving to learn more about this interesting poet.
So what’s next? They did tease us at For Books’ Sake that they’re keen to focus more on the female author. Let’s hope this promise rings true, and that their dinner parties last longer than the figs that “plopped to the ground” at Esther Greenwood’s feet.
Click here to find out more about The Novel Diner and their upcoming events.