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Books I Have Loved

I have always read a lot from an early age, my parents both read all the time, my Dad collected books and we always had at least 4 Sunday newspapers when I was growing up, so it was part of my life from as far back as I can remember, and may have had a lot to do with me wanting to be a journalist. So I thought I would list a few of my favourite books and authors. A lifetime of reading means its hard to remember back to books that meant a lot to me as a child, but I still have a lot of them - the ones that spring to mind are The Family from One End Street by Eve Garratt and Mary Poppins by P L Travers - the magical nanny, how I wanted one of those!

Then during adolescence I discovered H E Bates and The Darling Buds of May series of novels and some of his other works, and discovered the modern classics (she said pompously) nothing too strenuous though, George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, DH Lawrence that kind of thing. For the last few years I've had a Kindle, always said I wouldn't but like everyone else, once you have got one, you wonder how you ever carried heavy books around. So here is my list, not in any order: The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell - this book introduced me to Maggie O'Farrell and it really made an impact on me. Its a historical novel starting around the start of the last century and is a story of how women were not in charge of their lives, Esme is abused, has a baby and doesn't know what is happening to her and is put away in an institution for it for most of her life because she is 'difficult' ie has an opinion. There is also a back story about a young woman who has a vintage clothes shop, in Edinburgh I think, and it turns out Esme is her relative and the shop is in the house Esme lived in. I found it all-enveloping, couldn't put it down. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton - another historical novel set at about the same time as the one above and again about strong women (there's a theme here) with stories running along parallel lines, one in Edwardian times and also the present day. Complex relationships, evocative countryside, secrets, infidelity, its got it all. We get lots of books sent into the office, so we are always having a clear out and I often pick something up even though I've got the Kindle - can't help myself! Which is how I discovered Alice Hoffman. The book I picked up was The Marriage of Opposites which turned out to be about Rachel, the mother of impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro based on the island of St Thomas in the early 1800's. Again a complex story, but easy to read, of how life was on a small island, with the locals and the wealthy Europeans living alongside each other. I then went on to read a lot of her other books, The Museum of Extraordinary Things and The Story Sisters stand out. Damaged people getting through life however they can.

Two authors I go back to all the time are Helen Dunmore and Tracy Chevalier, I think I have loved everything they have done. Falling Angels and The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier stand out - very different, one set in London when the suffragettes were becoming militant and the other about runaway slaves in America, and Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore which was her first book and re-imagines what life was like for D H Lawrence and his German wife in Ireland during the First World War, and The Siege which is about a family trapped in Leningrad by the Germans, slowly starving to death, during the Second World War. A book set in the present day that stands out is Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, very sad but uplifting at the same time, another woman with a secret that comes out as she gets to know the paraplegic man she is looking after. Both families have interesting, complicated stories. A great story with a lot of characters. Looking back over this list it all seems a bit heavy going and dark doesn't it? But really the books aren't, they are just multi-layered stories about people's lives, and people's lives are complicated. Anyway, I hope you will pick one of them up and enjoy it as much as I did.

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