As mother to writers Zadie Smith and Ben Bailey Smith, Yvonne Bailey Smith’s debut novel has been met with a stream of critical and audience praise. Smith’s debut release, The Day I Fell Off My Island, tells the touching story of a young Jamaican teenager forced to leave her island home after the death of her father and start again in England. A story of windrush, family roots, new beginnings and long-buried secrets, it’s surely the start of big things to come from Bailey Smith. 

Find her in conversation during this year’s festival with theologian, writer and broadcaster, Tina Beattie whose new novel, Between Two Rivers, is set in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during the traumatic disintegration of colonial rule and the descent into civil war. 


About The Authors

Yvonne Bailey-Smith headshot

Yvonne Bailey-Smith

Yvonne Bailey-Smith was born in Jamaica in 1954 and immigrated to the UK in 1969. She trained and worked first as a social worker for the NHS for many years before becoming a psychotherapist. She is also a Water Aid Supporter and passionate about providing clean water and sanitation in developing countries. She is the mother of three children: novelist Zadie Smith; actor, musician and children’s book author Ben Bailey Smith; and lyricist and writer LucSkyz. Her debut novel ‘The Day I Fell Off My Island’ is shortlisted for The Author’s Club Debut Novel Award.

Tina Beattie Headshot

Tina Beattie

Tina Beattie left her full-time post as Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Roehampton in 2020, to concentrate on independent research and writing. In addition to academic monographs published by Routledge, OUP and Continuum, and numerous journal articles and book chapters, she has published two novels –  The Good Priest (2019) and Between Two Rivers (2022). She is interested in the ways in which fictional characters emerge as bearers of complex and conflicted meanings and stories which elude the constraints of academic writing. Between Two Rivers is set in pre-independence Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), and it draws on her many years of living in sub-Saharan Africa. She was born and grew up in Zambia, and has also lived in Kenya and Zimbabwe. Tina moved from Harare to Bristol with her husband Dave and four little children in 1988, and became a mature student at the University of Bristol when her youngest child started school. Dave and she now live on the south coast near Rye.

Reviewing Between Two Rivers, Zimbabwean poet and author Chiedza Musengezi writes that “Beattie explores our humanity in its beauty and brokenness through women’s voices. Fictional voices of the marginalised have been inserted in the recorded history of the country, not to create an alternative history but to add to its rich, multi-faceted texture.”