Good Reading : March 2011
MARCH 2011 ı goodreading 7 me my shelf i joanna trollope JOANNA TROLLOPE is the author of 16 highly acclaimed, bestselling contemporary novels. She has also written a study of women in the British Empire, Britannia’s Daughters, as well as a number of historical novels. She was born in Gloucestershire and now lives in London, and was awarded an OBE in the 1996 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. ● When you were a child what did you enjoy reading? There was no television for children brought up in the late 1940s and early 1950s -- so we all read, as a matter of course, much the way all children nonchalantly operate technology now. And as I wore specs, and was not at all sporty as a child, I read all the time -- probably as a bit of a defence! I read Noel Streatfeild, E Nesbit, Eve Garnett and Charlotte Brontë (I've never got on with Emily, to this day) and Rumer Godden -- anything and everything about relationships and families. No surprises there! ● What are you reading now, and why? I have a whole heap of books on the go. The Companion Guide to Berlin, because I've just been there and adored it, and I can never read anything about a place I visit until after I've been there. Joseph O'Connor's wonderful novel about J M Synge's late-life love affair, called Ghost Light, which I'm reading because I loved his Star of the Sea. And Jessica Ruston, the daughter of my great friend Susan Hill, has just sent me a proof of her new novel, To Touch the Stars -- a perfect downtime read about a successful businesswoman and her complicated private life. Because of the Ger man obsession at the moment, there's Stefan Zweig's The Post Office Girl, which is grippingly doomed, and a volume of the wonderful Alice Munro's short stories called Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. And, in the name of research for my next novel, a fascinating account of fighting in Afghanistan by Sebastian Junger, simply called Wa r -- it's so well written. ● What are some of your favourite books and authors? There are, I think, books that chime exactly with various stages of life. As a teenager, I read Antonia White and Doris Lessing, and when I was a bit older it was Jane Austen and George Eliot. And when a bit older still I discovered the real Trollope -- Anthony -- who I hugely admire for his astonishing pre-Freudian understanding of humanity. I think Thackeray's Vanity Fair is a masterpiece, I love Émile Zola (in translation, I hasten to add!) and as far as modern novels go, I think Rose Tremain's Music and Silence and Jeanette Winterson's The Passion are both outstanding. So too, is Rose Macaulay's The Towers of Trebizond, written in the 1950s -- maybe that's the book I wish I'd written myself. ● What are some books that have made you laugh out loud? Gerald Dur rell's My Family and Other Animals, his brother Lawrence's Esprit de Corps, and Gwen Raverat's Period Piece. But not, I'm fraid, P G Wodehouse. Is it a gender thing? ● Which authors/books have had the most nfluence on your writing? The novelists I admire most are the stars of the 19th century, starting with Jane Austen. I love the importance they attach to both character and narrative, I like their sense of realism (no truck with fantasy for them) and I love their adventurous use of language ( Dickens was especially inventive with this, especially when it came to names). When it comes to modern writers, I hugely respect the late Penelope Fitzgerald (so restrained and, in consequence, so powerful) and Jane Gardam and Hilary Mantel -- all of them have such wonderful rhythm to their writing. don't want to write like any of them but I need hem to be there to read and to admire. ● Do you have tips and/or books on writing hat you would recommend? always feel that if you want to write fiction, the thing you have to train in yourself is your power of observation, especially of other people. So I suggest to would-be writers that they keep a jour nal -- a sort of observation scrapbook -- of things they notice, or overhear, or ideas and scraps of dialogue that come to them. Because lear ning to write has its apprenticeship, like everything else worth doing. ● Do you have a favourite bookshop? Why do you like it so much? There are two, and I can't choose between them. One s in an Oxfordshire town called Chipping Norton, and it's called Jaffé and Neale: it's run by a husband- nd-wife team, and it has so much char m, and a ovely coffee shop and the books are displayed in an especially inviting way. The other is Topping of Ely -- a perfectly beautiful old building with this slightly eccentric, wholly delightful and distinguished bookshop inside, winding up several floors until you can see the spire of Ely Cathedral from the upper windows. Daughters-in-Law by Joanna Trollope is published by Doubleday, r rp $32.95.