Literary star to grace Penrith library

Intrigue: Alexandra Joel’s memoir recounts the extraordinary life of her great-grandmother, a woman who captivated British and European society.

Intrigue: Alexandra Joel’s memoir recounts the extraordinary life of her great-grandmother, a woman who captivated British and European society.

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Many literary stars have passed through Penrith Library’s doors as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival over the past decade. 

This year, Alexandra Joel will tell the story of her great-grandmother Rosetta who, in 1905, escaped her safe Melbourne life, leaving her husband and five-year-old daughter, for Zeno the Magnificent, a fortune-teller and seducer of souls. The two reinvented themselves in London, where they attracted the patronage of the rich and famous.

Alexandra Joel’s memoir recounts the extraordinary life of her mysterious great-grandmother, a woman who captivated British and European society, beguiling famous writers and inventors, lords and ladies, princes and princesses.

Ms Joel is also the author of Best Dressed: 200 Years of Fashion in Australia and Parade: the Story of Fashion in Australia. Both books detail the development of fashion, style and national identity.

A former editor of Harper’s Bazaar and of Portfolio, Australia’s first magazine for working women, Ms Joel has also been a contributor to a number of national magazines as well as The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald. She also practised as a counsellor and psychotherapist.

Last year’s event was a double act of father and daughter, Tom and Meg Keneally. A library spokesperson said that Tom Keneally is one of Australia’s best-known and best-loved writers and was a lively and quick-witted speaker, as was his daughter, who’s a writer and journalist in her own right.

In 2015 Laine Moriarty was just on the cusp of literary mega-stardom when she spoke at Penrith Library. The first thing she told the Penrith Library audience was “I’ve just come from talks with Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon about adapting my book, Big Little Lies for a major television series in the US.”

The library has twice featured writer of Australian history, Peter Fitzsimons and has also featured Ross Coulthart from 60 Minutes who gave a historical account of the Diggers in France during World War One.

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki has also entertained the audience with his science talk complete with multi-media presentations.

Other speakers include Sylvia Nasar (who wrote A Beautiful Mind, which was later made into the Oscar-winning feature film starring Russel Crowe) Bob Carr, Emily Rodda, Tim Ferguson, Jana Wendt, Judy Nunn and William McInnes.

This year’s event will again be another in conversation format – more like a discussion between author and audience than a formal talk. Ms Joel will be available to sign copies of her book after the show.

Tickets for the May 24 event are $5 which also includes food with tea, coffee and other beverages and are available at Penrith Library.

The event takes place from 6.30pm to 7.30pm. To book, contact 4732 7891.

Engaging: The library has twice featured writer of Australian history, Peter Fitzsimons.

Engaging: The library has twice featured writer of Australian history, Peter Fitzsimons.

Fame: In 2015 Laine Moriarty was just on the cusp of literary mega-stardom when she spoke at Penrith Library.

Fame: In 2015 Laine Moriarty was just on the cusp of literary mega-stardom when she spoke at Penrith Library.