On 12th April 2011 I was lucky enough to be invited to an intimate dinner at Kensington Palace with Jodi Picoult to celebrate the launch of her new book Sing You Home.
I arrived at Kensington Palace where we were given a private tour of the state apartments that have been transformed into the ‘enchanted palace’. The tour focused on seven princesses that have lived at Kensington Palace and their lives have been re-imagined as installations, which give a fascinating insight into the palace’s hidden stories. We heard about the rebellious princess who ran from an arranged marriage into the arms of love, sad Queens who bore the pain and sadness of lost babies and the young heir to the throne who escaped the controlling grasp of her overprotective mother. What’s more, in each room there was a selection of dresses from contemporary designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Paul Costelloe, and also original pieces that the princesses wore. It was a really interesting tour, although Jodi and I agreed that it was pretty spooky wandering around the palace at night!
TBP's Susie Chalmers with Jodi
After the tour we were served champagne followed by dinner in the rooms that were formally Princess Margaret’s. Meeting Jodi was such a pleasure – she’s one of the warmest and liveliest people I’ve ever met. She told me that Sing You Home – a book about gay rights – has been the most controversial book she has written.
The reaction in America has been particularly extreme and she’s received a lot of hate mail from Evangelical Christians saying that she will “burn in hell”. But she has also had thousands of positive messages from those who have enjoyed and been moved by the novel. While she was researching and writing Sing You Home, Jodi’s son told her he was gay and she said she realised that writing this story was then even more important.
Jodi also talked about the musicals that she writes that are performed in schools across America. Her love of music truly comes to life in Sing You Home as there is a CD to accompany the book. The songs were written together with Jodi’s best friend Ellen Wilber who was also at the dinner and performed the title track for us. All in all it was a truly memorable evening and I felt very lucky to be there.
You can view the full video of the event here to have a look around Kensington Palace and listen to a live acoustic performance from Ellen Wilber.