It is always a treat to participate in a group blog with my very special writing group, consisting of Natasha Lester, Amanda Curtin, Annabel Smith, Dawn Barker, Emma Chapman and Yvette Walker. On this occasion we have come together to celebrate the recent release of my own book All That is Lost Between Us, and Natasha’s newly released A Kiss for Mr Fitzgerald. Both of these books feature young girls determined to pursue their passions – so it seems only fitting that our blog posts are all about what we read as young women that inspired us to follow our own dreams.
On the surface, the two books I am going to write about could not be more different, and yet they were both books I read multiple times in my late teens, and they both continue to influence me today. The first, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, is a book I would probably not have picked up at the time, had it not been on my study list for my A level exams. I had never read anything like it. I couldn’t claim to understand it and yet I was immersed in the sensory overload on every page; the voices of each character so distinct and so close; everything framed by the rise and fall of the sun and the surge and retreat of the waves, as a day grows and blossoms and then fades, just as a life does. It was a book I returned to explore again and again, entranced by both its complexity and simplicity. As a reader, I was completely absorbed by its visceral narrative. As a young writer, I was learning so much. Since then I have read many of the works of Virginia Woolf, but The Waves is still my favourite.
The second book I remember reading repeatedly as a teen was completely different. Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine is an utterly original, humorous non-fiction book on the plight of some of the most endangered animals in the world. (Since Douglas Adams’s death, it has been re-envisioned and updated by Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine in another book and TV series.) It not only appealed to my love of animals, but it also tapped in to my growing awareness of environmental problems, and how difficult it is to change human patterns of behavior to avoid the preventable and tragic loss of species. It was the very first book to focus my attention on the delicate nature of biodiversity, and how much work needs to be done to preserve and cherish the world around us. Last Chance to See is twenty-five years old this year, but its urgent appeal to humanity remains as relevant as ever.
Please take the time to visit my fellow writers’ blogs and learn who inspired them when they were younger – there are some wonderful choices and stories in this collection:
Natasha Lester remembers her love of Jane Eyre.
Dawn Barker recalls an powerful read that made her determined to work in the mental health industry.
Emma Chapman talks about a former boss who proved to be an inspiration.
Annabel Smith describes the impact Sylvia Plath’s diaries had on her as a teen.
Yvette Walker tells us how Graham Greene influenced her as a writer and reader.
Amanda Curtin celebrates Eleanor Alice Buford Hibbert, whose name is less familiar than her wonderful work, thanks to her numerous pseudonyms.
And finally, don’t forget to tell us who inspired you when you were growing up!