MY BOOKS by a novelist who was once obsessed by the Famous Five and recently enjoyed a cuckoo book (she has no idea how it found a home on her shelves) First lines, first books, first literary loves….and more
By novelist SANDRA DANBY, author of Connectedness… Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face. Visit Sandra’s website and follow her on Twitter,Facebook, What’s the first book you remember reading (or being read to you)? Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. I remember Peter being generally naughty and being inspired by him. Also the feel of the beautiful little hardback book, I loved to hold it. This was the beginning of a lifelong love of books, holding them, smelling them, the thrill of turning the page. The painting of Peter in his tight-fitting blue jacket, which didn’t seem at all odd to me at the time, is a classic.
What’s the first book that a made a big impact on you?
Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton. It was the first time I became obsessed by reading a series. I remember saving my pocket money for the school fair and hoping there would be one to buy, not worried about reading them in order, not thinking twice that they were secondhand. I went on to discover Blyton’s Secret Seven series, buying one when a Famous Five was not available.
What book are you reading right now? I’m at the wonderful moment, just about to start a new book, hovering on the edge. Next I am reading Union Street by Pat Barker. Barker is one of my favourite novelists and this is her first book. Described as both harsh and uplifting, it tells the story of seven women living in the same street. Young and old, they live lives of poverty, prostitution, rape, serial pregnancy and neglect, and face it together. A very real story, still true today.
And the one you read before that? Last night I finished Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, which had been sitting on my to-read shelf forever. It is a cuckoo book; neither my husband nor I can remember buying it or gifting it. It was a quick read, it’s more novella than novel, but was gentle and tough at the same time. Very though provoking, about companionship and love in our latter years.
Review: “Simple, low-key and absolutely beautiful.” The Times
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. Oh what a question! Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively is one of my all-time favourite books, rewarding many re-readings, giving me so much both as a reader and as an author. First line: ‘I’m writing a history of the world,’ she says.
Same question but this time what classic would you save from the bonfire? (And you can work out your own definition of classic.) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, first read and loved as a teenager. I think it made such a big impact on me because I identified with the second Mrs de Winter; quiet, shy, standing in the background. If I could, I would also save Little Women by Louisa M Alcott because the portrayal of Jo as a writer made a big impression on me when I was a teenager. I seem to have been a very impressionable child and teenager, I did have my nose in a book most of the time.
Favourite non fiction book? A Yorkshire Sketchbook by David Hockney. These watercolour and ink sketches are of my homeland, the East Yorkshire wolds and villages as shown in Hockney’s ‘A Bigger Picture’ exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2013-2014. This show brought tears to my eyes. This book is a beautiful hardback with few words, only pictures. When I miss Yorkshire, this book comforts and at the same time lengthens the miles apart. I suppose that’s why I wrote about it in ‘Connectedness’.
Favourite poetry book? Dart by Alice Oswald. Oswald is a new discovery for me. A nature poet who, over the course of three years, held conversations with people who live and work along the River Dart in Devon. She uses them to create a narrative of the river, the nature, the water, its two-faced personality – benign and jostling – the seasons, life and death. In the great tradition of English nature poets.
Finally, what do you prefer: a real book with pages that move, an ebook, an audio device? A real book every time. That said, I listen to audio books on my iPod and read ebooks on my Kindle. But nothing beats the turn of the page, feeling the paper at your fingertips. Just one more page… just one more page.
Want to take part in MY BOOKS? Drop me a line at bridgetwhelan At hotmail.co.uk if you would like to contribute. How much or how little you write is up to you. Please put MY BOOKS in the subject line.