Join Alix Nathan as she talks about her compelling historical novel The Warlow Experiment, an unforgettably sinister tale of an 18th century human experiment which has unforeseen consequences for all involved.
What kind of person keeps a man underground for seven years? And who would agree to be part of such an experiment?
Herbert Powyss lives on a small estate in the Welsh Marches, with enough time and income to pursue a gentleman’s fashionable cultivation of exotic plants and trees. But he longs to make his mark in the field of science – something consequential enough to present to the Royal Society in London.
He hits on a radical experiment in isolation: for seven years a subject will inhabit three rooms in the cellar of the manor house, fitted out with books, paintings and even a chamber organ. Meals will arrive thrice daily via a dumbwaiter. The solitude will be totally unrelieved by any social contact; the subject will keep a diary of his daily thoughts and actions. The pay? Fifty pounds per annum, for life.
Only one man is desperate enough to apply for the job: John Warlow, a semi-literate labourer with a wife and six children to provide for…
The Warlow Experiment is our book of the month for July and is Radio Four’s Book and Bedtime from 22nd July. We’re delighted to welcome Alix to Booka for this daytime event to tell us more about this original and eloquent novel.
Tickets: £5 (redeemable against a signed copy of The Warlow Experiment). Includes a coffee/tea on arrival. Tickets available from the bookshop, or purchase online (with booking fee).