Welcome to Louise Walters, author of A Life Between Us.
I thought it would be easy to pick out ten favourite books… until I remembered that it needed to be ten books that I have not only enjoyed, but have influenced me, both as reader and writer. That’s a little trickier! So I perused my bookshelves, had a think, and these are the books that jumped out at me.
- Come Back, Lucy by Pamela Sykes
I loved this book as a child and I love it now. It’s a chilling ghost story, set in the 1970s, and in the 1870s. It features one of the most threatening ghosts in literature, and I am still scared of the menacing Alice whenever I re-read this wonderful novel (which I do every December). I’ve always felt I’d like to have a go at a ghost story, and this is the book that inspired that idea.
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I loved Jo March and identified with her so much! I remember buying my second hand copy in a bookshop that I would, years later, work in. I wanted to be a March sister, Jo’s twin perhaps, or Jo herself, somehow. Spoiler alerts: When Amy burned Jo’s manuscript, I was livid, and I still don’t forgive Amy for that. And then she goes on to steal Jo’s almost-boyfriend! What kind of sister is she?
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said about this novel. It was my first proper, literary, grown-up novel. I read it when I was aged around 14, and I’ve re-read it many times. I never tire of this wonderful story.
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
A lot of books claim to have a “twist you won’t see coming”, but this is the original. I remember gasping out loud and being totally thrilled by the huge turning point in this novel. I read it again recently, and it is truly a thrilling story. Perfect in every way.
- The River by Rumer Godden
I read several of Rumer’s children’s books as I grew up, before moving on to her adult work. The River shows us how to write a novella. It’s a short novel, with a big punch. Economical and tight, I love this book. I want to write a novella too one day, and this is a consummate example of how to do it. Beautiful.
- Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Getting back to the aforementioned bookshop, this was one of the books that was hugely popular when I was a bookseller. I loved it, and still do. It sustains such a strong and evocative voice throughout, and it’s hard to put down. A long novel, but it never feels long while you’re reading it. A modern classic.
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
This is a masterpiece. The writing is truly awesome and the story of the Joad family is both inspiring and tragic. Poetic, yet down to earth, and with that unexpected ending that amazes, and leaves the reader utterly moved, enthralled, and a little wrong-footed. A work of true literature, a work of art.
- Mother, Missing (Missing Mom in the USA) by Joyce Carol Oates
While studying creative writing with The Open University, Joyce Carol Oates’s work cropped up many times. I saw this book in my local library, and wanted some holiday reading, so I took it on a cruise with me. I couldn’t put it down: I found JCO’s way of writing mesmerising. It inspired me so much, it felt like a revelation. After my holiday I read it all over again. Then I knuckled down to work “properly” on the novel that would be published as my debut, four years later.
- Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
Again, I read Penelope Lively as a child, and later moved on to her adult work. I remember picking up Moon Tiger, a few years ago, not really knowing what to expect; and being utterly blown away by it. I’ve read it three times, and it’s now my favourite novel. Exceptional storytelling, and the winner of the Booker Prize in 1987. I recommend this novel to all and sundry. I met Penelope Lively at a Society of Authors event three years ago and she signed my copy. I shall always treasure it.
- Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
This is my latest mind blowing find! I bought it recently for my Kindle when it was 99p, as I had heard good things. Oh, my goodness! Another short novel, and perfectly written, and packed full of ideas, philosophy, observations, and of course, inspired writing. I had to read it again as soon as I’d finished it. I went on to buy a paper copy, one for me and one for my mum (for Mother’s Day) and she loved it too. Another modern classic, that should have won all the prizes going.
A Life Between Us is Louise’s second novel and was published in March 2017.