What I read: the director of the Verb Festival, Claire Mabey, and her love for “Anne… the house of green gables”

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Library therapist Claire Mabey is the director of Wellington's Verb Festival.

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Library therapist Claire Mabey is the director of Wellington’s Verb Festival.

Claire Mabey is the director of Wellington’s Verb Festival which features the popular LitCrawl. A avowed book enthusiast, Claire is also planning the writers program for the Aotearoa Arts Festival in New Zealand. When not juggling festival guests, Claire offers “bibliotherapy” sessions: she spends time with someone talking about what they like to read and then offers them a reading list.

What book stood out on you so much that you bought it for your friends?

I have a few … I’m a big fan of Shonagh Koea, an Aotearoa writer of what you might call domestic fiction. I think her stories are dark, funny, lingering in their feminism, and unabashedly home-based. I buy used copies of his novels whenever I see them and give them to friends. I also love my copy of Jessa Crispin’s The creative tarot that I have posted to friends over the years. And for little readers, I love telling Margaret Mahy stories like The witch with the cherry tree, and JAM.

When it comes to a memorable book, what is more important, a great storyline or great characters?

I think memorable books stay with you for so many different reasons. The plot can be anything, but the characters can stay with you and take their own lives. But for me, it’s often the atmosphere of the book, the feelings you get when you call it. And the visual environments too: the sets, the houses, the spaces that you imagine these characters occupy.

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What book do you read over and over again?

I read again Anne of the Green Gables, and Persuasion by Jane Austen, and Potiki by Patricia Grace. I also like to re-read Philip Pullman’s book Its dark materials series – this is such a rich escape. I am the mother of a 3 year old child so I reread books every night, which I had forgotten from my childhood!

Which authors would you like in your book club?

Lauren Groff, Pip Adam, Nadine Hura, Isa Ritchie, Anahera Gildea, Elizabeth Knox, Jane Austen, Doireann Ni Ghriofa, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Johanna Knox, Kirsten McDougall, Megan Dunn … there are many more. I love talking about books with writers!

What book did you read as a child or teenager that made a deep impression on you?

Anne of the Green Gables had a huge impact on me. You can’t really underestimate how important it is to see yourself in a book. I’m redhead, which wasn’t always a joy in Aotearoa back then. When I read Anne, her passions, her emotions and her ambitions with her red head made me feel like I had found a role model. Someone who struggled with herself but whose ups and downs were impossible to suppress. I think she’s a phenomenal creation, especially for teenagers: it’s pretty rare to read a character who is allowed to be so free with her anger, love, and insecurity and this story leads into adulthood. and finally to the story of his own children.

What kind of books do you like to read for fun?

I like to read all the books. But if I really want to get away from it all and be immersed, then I love average fiction – I just read Ataria Sharman’s Hine and the Tohunga portal which was a real gem in which to disappear.

Do you read physical or digital books?

I only read digital if I have to. For me, there is something really obstructive about digital books. My brain just doesn’t absorb them as efficiently and there’s something about the inability to come and go that bothers me. So, yes, hard copies all the way.

Wellington verb

The eighth annual Verb Festival, featuring all things reading and writing, returns to Wellington from November 3-7.

There is a full schedule of events over the four days (and some special events at the end of October). The popular LitCrawl will take place on November 6 from 6:15 p.m. to 9 p.m. You will need to register for this event.

For full details, visit verbwellington.nz/festival


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