The best events at book festivals are those which bring together writers who tackle subjects from different angles, allowing the writers the space to discuss, and the audience time to listen to and consider, a topic from a variety of perspectives. Both Sarah Moss’s The Tidal Zone and Helen Sedgwick’s The Growing Season tackle a variety of subjects and questions but the thread that ties the two is that most tricky of subjects: parenthood. While The Tidal Zone explores the aftermath of a child’s sudden cardiac arrest, The Growing Season imagines a world in which an external womb has been invented and pregnancy is now open to all genders.

As both writers read from their works, it was interesting to note the similarities and differences. Although Moss’s was realist in style and Sedgwick’s imagined alternate future, similar questions were being asked: what does it mean to be a parent and how can it inspire such blind joy and yet also such trauma? Both writers discussed their work vividly, covering questions of class, gender, feminism and the confines of the nuclear family. There was a particularly interesting exchange in regards to the future of the NHS, which sits at the heart of Sarah’s novel, almost a character itself, while it has been swallowed up by the market in The Growing Season.

If only the event had been a little longer, for it was in the last ten minutes that the discussion began to imagine alternatives to our understanding of family and parenthood, and who better to have as guides than two of the most intelligent, thoughtful and provocative writers of our time.

For more on the Edinburgh International Book Festival and it’s programme click here.