This month, the Writers Ask Writers gang and I have decided to write about the books that have changed us. We’re also welcoming a guest star: Hannah Richell, author of the bestselling Secret of the Tides, and the newly published The Shadow Year. Happy to have you with us, Hannah!
Here is a small selection of books that have had an impact on me.
The Magic Faraway Tree – Enid Blyton
This is my earliest memory of a book that set my imagination on fire. I just couldn’t get enough of it: the endless possibilities of the worlds at the top of the tree, the whimsical characters. It’s the first time I remember getting lost in a book.
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
I remember reading this in Year 8 at school and moaning with everyone else about how boring and dense it was: when I was secretly really enjoying it and identifying a little too much with Jane. I love this book for what it taught me about narrative secrets which are eked out to the reader slowly, for narrative tension and claustrophobia, and for its wonderful view of the importance of equality in relationships.
The Handmaid’s Tale– Margaret Atwood
I loved this book for its wisdom, and for the beautiful, transformative writing that I could never get enough of. The lyrical scenes contrast so wonderfully with the detached language used in Offred’s everyday life. I loved the movement between the past and present and Atwood’s cleverness in teasing the reader. I also loved studying this book in year 12: conducting lively debates with our wonderful English teacher and my friends.
The Bell Jar and Journals – Sylvia Plath
There are two things about Plath which I find inspirational: the clarity and apparent simplicity of her prose, and her honesty in her journals. Her words about her struggles with writing made me understand that all writers go through periods of doubt and gave me the confidence to keep going even when I felt discouraged. I feel indebted to her.
The L-Shaped Room – Lynne Reid Banks
I read this book when I was in a truculent teenage phase: all I wanted was to run away (preferably with my best friend) and make exciting things happen in my life. My friend still teases me about glamorizing what is essential an unplanned pregnancy and living in poverty, but something about this book rang true with what I wanted for my own life: one lived on my own terms and without restriction.
And my writerly friends have radically different tastes…
Our guest poster for this month, Hannah Richell, tells us about one book (or collection of stories) that influenced her writing.
Annabel Smith and I have White Noise in common, but there are also ones here I’ve never heard of!
Natasha Lester enjoyed Enid Blyton too, and I loved The Blind Assassin also…
Sara Foster has given me lots of fodder for my TBR pile!
Dawn Barker – I loved so many of the books on Dawn’s list, I found I was kicking myself that I hadn’t thought of them myself!
Amanda Curtin shares her early interest in English boarding school, plus books about her own hometown.
Which books do you find inspirational? I’d love to hear about them below.
Want more? Read the Six Degrees of Separation Meme for The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.