Saturday, 15 February 2014

My Fictional World ...

Possibly the longest and most rewarding relationship I have had in my life is with books. I love books, I love books a lot. Some (my mother) might say too much, but I firmly believe a house is not a home until is full to the brim with books. Now the lovely Jocelyn over at The Reading Residence has challenged me to answer the questions in her new reading meme, My Fictional World.

What were your favourite reads from your childhood?
I was an Enid Blyton girl. When I was small I adored the Magic Faraway Tree books, the Wishing Chair series and later Malory Towers. My heroines of choice were Blyton's Amelia Jane and The Naughtiest Girl but I also had a soft spot for Milly Molly Mandy, Joyce Lankaster Brisley's more demure rebel.
Three books still stand out in my memory and remain on my bookshelves, even more tattered than they were because my own daughters have read them in their turn: Blyton's retelling of Greek myths, Tales of Long Ago, Lorna Hill's Masquerade at the Wells (part of the Sadlers Wells series) and Eleanor Farjeon's The Silver Curlew.

There are always those books that defined your teen reads and stay with you – what were yours?
My teenage years started with JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and ended (by which time I was studying English lit at college and dating a philosophy student) with Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra and William S.Burroughs Jr's Speed via the collected works of  the Brontes, Dickens, Hardy, Eliot, Austen, Huxley. Waugh, Forster, Kerouac, Atwood, Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle and of course the late great Douglas Adams.
I read voraciously and continuously. I even read The Bible. Well, the good bits. 
The books that became a part of me were Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native, Kerouac's On the Road, and the Danny Sugerman and Jerry Hopkins biography of Jim Morrison No One Here Gets Out Alive. A book I can't bring myself to leave behind if spotted on the shelf of any secondhand bookshop for fear it might fall into the wrong hands. I have four copies.

Who are your favourite authors currently?
My favourite authors to read now are Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell), Terry Pratchett, Peter Robinson, David Pearce, Val McDermid, Mark Billington, Stuart MacBride, Reginald Hill and Jilly Cooper. 

Which 3 genres do you gravitate towards most often?
I like 'classics', crime and comedy. 

Can you choose your top titles from each of those genres?
It's hard to pick just one classic book but if I had to it would be Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. I can still quote huge chunks verbatim and my eldest daughter owes her name to the author. Crime novels are generally hard to re-read, but Barbara Vine's Gallowglass I've read time and time again. Beautifully constructed, thoroughly involving and thought provoking.
The best, the ultimate, the only book that EVERYONE must read is Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (and the subsequent series). Comic. Genius. That is all.

And your least favourite genres?
I don't do romance, either the Mills and Boon or the 50 Shades variety. I don't read chick lit and I don't do sci-fi.

Of the many, many fictional and fantastical worlds, where would you most like to visit?
It's a toss-up between Terry Pratchett's Discworld and Jilly Cooper's Rutshire from the collected Rutshire Chronicles series (not a romance and not chick lit, but so much more than that).... but only if I get to have a romp with Rupert Campbell-Black and drink all the gin.

Everyone loves a villain, right?! Who would make your favourites list?
Heathcliff. Obviously. And Rupert Campbell-Black, Jilly Cooper's womanising, horse-beating anti hero from Riders (before he turned all good and married the angelic Taggie *rolls eyes*). 

Share the books that have had you sobbing?
Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure makes me howl with anguish, it's compellingly tragic. Ian McEwan's Atonement. Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth. Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Chatterton by Peter Ackroyd.

And let’s end on a high! Which books leave a smile on your face, and maybe elicit a few laughs?!
I love Tom Sharpe, his wit is as pointed as his name, and I would give anything to spend an hour in Terry Pratchett's head. Ben Elton is funnier on the page than in person but Douglas Adams is my all time comedy writing hero. This a quote from So Long and Thanks for All the Fish:

'What's the matter with her, is she ill?'
'No,' said Russell, 'Merely barking mad' 
'What?' said Arthur, horrified.
'Loopy, completely bananas. I'm taking her back to the hospital and telling them to have another go. They let her out when she still thought she was a hedgehog.'
'A hedgehog?'
Russell hooted his horn fiercely at a car that came round the corner towards than half-way on to their side of the road, making them swerve. The anger seemed to make him feel better.
'Well, maybe not a hedgehog,' he said after he'd settled down again. 'Though it would probably be simpler to deal with if she did. If somebody thinks they're a hedgehog, presumably you just give 'em a mirror and a few pictures of hedgehogs and tell them to sort it out for themselves, come down again when they feel better.'

Which when I first read it made me laugh for DAYS. And frankly, still does. I keep a few pictures of hedgehogs handy too, just in case.

The Reading Residence

Check out everyone else's Fictional World over at The Reading Residence.

I tag you!


  1. It seems that we have quite a lot in common comparing our Fictional Worlds! I have tried to post a comment before using my Wordpress account details and maybe its awaiting moderation (if so apologies!) but otherwise there is a definite glitch in the system! I had forgotten about Milly Molly Mandy and Mallory Towers - I loved both of them too. I think you're taste is a lot more high brow than mine although I did a literature degree too but mine was American lit (what?!! I know, sacrilege but it involved a year in America so I thought it would be worth ploughing through the Hemingway and the Faulkner, but give me Austen and Bronte any day!). I also trained as a journalist at The London College of Printing but never made it into journalism.

    You've also reminded me that I read quite a few of Jilly Cooper's 70s 'romances' - Emily, Harriet, Octavia, etc in my late teens! And that once again, yes, Adams was a genius and died way too young :-(

    My blog is

  2. So enjoyed reading this. I love Wuthering Heights, too, and yes, Rupert Campbell-Black - fabulous character! Loved all of those books and definitely more than chick lit. Thanks so much for sharing and joining in with #MyFictionalWorld


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