MY BOOKS from Asian Noir to the poetry of Graham Mort…First lines, first books, first literary loves….and more
BY Sophie Jenkins.Sophie lives in north London and her novel The Forgotten Guide to Happinessis about memory and the enduring power of love. Twitter: @sophiejenkinsuk firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s the first book you remember reading (or being read to you)?
A pop-up book of Alice Through the Looking Glass! It had a little mirror on the first page and I got lost inside that book, even though I couldn’t read it.
What’s the first book that a made a big impact on you?
The Girl in a Swing by Richard Adams. It’s a tragedy with everything I want from a story; big themes of love, beauty, passion, guilt, violence, remorse and destruction – a devastating but strangely beautiful book.
First line: All day it has been windy – strange weather for late July – the wind swirling through the hedges like an invisible flood-tide among seaweed; tugging, compelling them in its own direction, dragging them one way until the patches of elder and privet sagged outward from the tougher stretches of blackthorn on either side.
What book are you reading right now?
I’m reading The Good Son by You-jeong Jeong. It’s Asian noir, by South Korea’s best-selling crime novelist. It starts: The smell of blood woke me. It’s going to give me nightmares, that’s for sure.
We all know burning books is wrong on every level. What contemporary novel (and by contemporary I mean one published in the last 30 years or so) would you put your hand in the fire to save.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It’s an atmospheric and intense novel that starts with a murder and the rest of the book is a lyrical but harrowing explanation by a young student of how the murder came about.
Same question but this time what classic would you save from the bonfire? (And you can work out your own definition of classic.)
I would save my facsimile of The Great Gatsby manuscript by F Scott Fitzgerald with all his edits and crossing out, because I like to see what he thought could be improved in this brilliant book.
Favourite non fiction book?
My favourite non-fiction book is The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley, which is about survivors of disasters and the characteristics that led to their survival. I read it just in case…
And a short story that has lived with you ever since you first read it?
The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber is my favourite, by Ernest Hemingway. Written in 1936, it is about a couple going on a hunting trip in Africa, and has the viewpoints of the guide, the would-be hunter, his wife and the lion that they’re hunting. He breaks all the rules, really, but it is extremely insightful and as he’s a good writer, Hemingway can get away with it.
Finally, what do you prefer: a real book with pages that move, an ebook, an audio device?
I’m more likely to buy an ebook because of the pleasure of instant gratification, but if I like a book I will buy it in paperback, too. I keep audiobooks for the gym, to stop me from clock-watching.