Book and film recommend­ations

Read our staff recommendations on contemporary books and films that you can use to celebrate Pride.

Books

The Unlit Lamp - Radclyffe Hall

Although this was written in 1924 and is of its time, it is still very relevant today. The tale navigates through the lives of two women and the class conventions, control and manipulation, expectations, disappointments and missed opportunities that effect both their lives.

Hall’s next novel ‘The Well of Loneliness’ was banned from publication for many years, due to the lesbian relationship or ‘inversion’ it portrayed.

Vita - The Life of Vita Sackville West - Victoria Glendinning

Aristocrat, poet, novelist, broadcaster and gardener of genius, my fascination with Vita began with the BBC adaptation of ‘A Portrait of a Marriage’, which focussed on the period of her love affair with Violet (Keppel) Trefusis.

The astonishing parade of female love interests and affairs which peppered Vita’s life was clearly made easier by her class and connections. Working class women of this time would not have been able to conduct their life with the same openness and ease.

The romance with Violet is, however, timeless and instantly recognisable to most lesbian women in the present day.

A student reading a book in the main Atrium

I was so captivated by Vita; I went on to read the following:

  • Violet to Vita - The letters of Violet Trefusis to Vita Sackville West, Edited by Mitchell A. Leaska and John Phillips
  • The letters of Vita Sackville - West to Virginia Woolf, Edited by Louise DeSalvo and Mitchell A. Leaska

For those who like some light comedy, ‘Gloomsbury’ on Radio 4 parodies the Bloomsbury Set and the lives of the key players and is very addictive.

Films

Desert Hearts. 1986. Directed by Donna Deitch

Set in 1959, Reno. A New York Professor, Vivian Bell, separates from her husband. The convention of the time required a period of separation before divorce and so Vivian heads for a ‘divorce ranch’.

Whilst there she meets Cay Rivvers, a free-spirited, open lesbian who lives in a pottery studio nearby. The pair strike up a friendship and embark on a journey of self-discovery.

The emotional and sexual elements that are combined so beautifully in this film by Deitch were at the time relatively untried.

Students at an arts degree show

A Secret Love. 2020. Directed by Chris Bolan

A heart-warming and touchingly sad documentary about two women, who for 60 years pretended to be ‘just good friends’ to family and colleagues.

Coming out only a few years ago, they still refer to each other as ‘cousins’ to outsiders. This legacy of shame and secrecy that most older LGBTQ people will be familiar with is difficult to change, and both find it upsetting and awkward to ‘come out’ to their families as they now have to - as both in their 90s, old age is bringing fresh challenges.

This film brings to the surface the fears most humans have of old age. That fear is so much greater with LGBTQ people, who worry about separation from their partners and attitudes towards them should they move into nursing homes.

Beautifully and sensitively crafted with a looming relevance that all humans can relate to on some level.

View a selection of short LGBT+ films included as part of this year's Pride in Belper celebration.