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June 1 @ 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm

Launch Event: Enlightenment

Sarah Perry
Sarah Perry and book cover for Enlightenment


Essex Business School Lecture Hall, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, CO4 3SQ
£8 concessions (Students, Under 27s and Unwaged)

Sarah Perry, Enlightenment

Multi award-winning and best-selling author, Festival Patron and University of Essex Chancellor, Sarah Perry, will be launching this year’s festival. Talking to our Essex Book Festival Chair, Peter Donaldson, about her highly anticipated new novel, Enlightenment. Join us for this very special opening event celebrating both the 25th edition of Essex Book Festival and the 60th anniversary of University of Essex.

This event will include an audience Q&A. After the event there will be an opportunity to get your book signed by the author.

Part of our This Land: Launch Day events on Saturday 1st June at University of Essex. Join us for a day of talks, performances, debates, walks and workshops to mark the 25th Edition of Essex Book Festival and the 60th Anniversary of University of Essex.

Venue: Essex Business School, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Tickets: £10 / £8 concessions (Students, Under 27s and Unwaged)
Box Office: essexbookfestival.org.uk or Mercury Theatre 01206 573948


Watch online for free

This event will also be available to watch live online on YouTube. To register to view the event online go to tickettailor.com. The link to watch the event live will be sent to you once you have registered.

There will be live subtitles by Stagetext for this event for those attending in person and also those viewing the event online.

There are spaces for wheelchairs available for this event but as the seating in the room is fixed these spaces are limited. Please contact Mercury Theatre on 01206 573948 (10am-8pm Tuesday to Saturday) to book a wheelchair place.




Published 2 May 2024

Book cover - Enlightenment by Sarah Perry

Order a copy of Enlightenment from bookshop.org

An unforgettable story of love, faith and astronomy, Enlightenment is Sarah Perry’s finest novel to date.

Thomas Hart and Grace Macauley are fellow worshippers at the Bethesda Baptist chapel in the small Essex town of Aldleigh. Though separated in age by three decades, the pair are kindred spirits – torn between their commitment to religion and their desire for more.

But their friendship is threatened by the arrival of love.

Thomas falls for James Bower, who runs the local museum. Together they develop an obsession with the vanished nineteenth-century female astronomer Maria Veduva, said to haunt a nearby manor, and whose startling astronomical discoveries may never have been acknowledged.

Inspired by Maria, and the dawning realisation James may not reciprocate his feelings, Thomas finds solace studying the night skies. Could astronomy offer as much wonder as divine or earthly love?

Meanwhile Grace meets Nathan, a fellow sixth former who represents a different, wilder kind of life. They are drawn passionately together, but quickly pulled apart, casting Grace into the wider world and far away from Thomas.

In time, the mysteries of Aldleigh are revealed, bringing Thomas and Grace back to each other and to a richer understanding of love, of the nature of the world, and the sheer miracle of being alive.

‘Sarah Perry has the rare gift of committing the uncommittable to prose – that is to say: here is a writer who understands life.’
– Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist



About the Author

Sarah Perry is the internationally best-selling author of the novels Melmoth, The Essex Serpent and After Me Comes the Flood, and the non-fiction Essex Girls. She is a winner of the Waterstone’s Book of the Year Award and the British Book of the Year Award and has been nominated for major literary prizes including the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Folio Prize and the Costa Novel Award. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has a PhD in Creative Writing.


Photo of Sarah Perry. Credit Sophie Davidson

Photo of Sarah Perry © Sophie Davidson


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Essex Business School Lecture Hall, University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, CO4 3SQ
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