Books of My Life

Posted on 11/06/2021

A by no means comprehensive list of books that have had a lasting impact on me as a reader and as a writer, and which I turn to often for comfort, inspiration and laughs.

Favourite book of all time 

The first line of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,” still thrills me. Rebecca has everything you want from a novel – romance, dark secrets and complex characters, but above all, it is the house itself and our unnamed heroine’s struggle to feel as if she belongs there that really resonates.

Book that made me want to become a writer 

I fell in love with the eccentric Mortmain family in I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, particularly the narrator, 17-year-old Cassandra. The book is funny and dreamy and sums up perfectly what it feels like when you are just on the edge of adulthood.

Book I recommend to people 

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym, because a lot of people have never read her pared back, melancholy portrayals of individuals beset by longings and loneliness.

The best book to start a book club 

The story of a shipwrecked boy sharing his boat with a tiger called Richard Parker may sound far fetched, but The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel is a book that examines notions of faith and truth and the way we choose our own narratives. Plus it has one of the goriest scenes I have ever read.

The funniest book

There are lots of contenders for this category, but Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbon never fails to cheer me up. I can never read the part about Old Adam Lambsbreath cletterin’ the porridge-encrusted dishes with a thorn twig under Flora Poste’s disbelieving gaze, without laughing out loud.

Favourite author 

William Trevor’s collected short stories are always on my bedside table. They are a source of inspiration and comfort. It staggers me how he is able to squeeze such meaning and emotion from the most ordinary events.

Favourite classic book

Mill on The Floss by George Elliot. Maggie Tulliver is the perfect heroine- fiery, principled and with a real thirst for experience. Her relationship with her brother Tom is at the heart of the book and is the best account of sibling rivalry and love that I have ever read. I defy anyone not to shed a tear at the end.

Book I wish I’d written 

Affinity by Sarah Waters is so accomplished that as a reader you don’t notice that you are part of an elaborate hoax. From the description of the prison at the beginning of the book to its denouement, it is a glorious, sly, twisty, tale.