Welcome to Jenny Quintana, author of The Missing Girl.
Thank you, Ruby, for inviting me to write about books on your blog. It’s a huge pleasure to be here.
When I was a child, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by books at home. I also went on frequent trips to the library. I come from a big family with four older brothers, but I was shy and loved nothing more than escaping into the world of books. I knew I wanted to be a writer one day and although it took me a long time, I got there in the end.
It was difficult choosing the ten books that have influenced my writing the most, especially when I admire everything a particular author has written, but these are the ones that have stayed with me and have inspired me through the years.
- The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters by Enid Blyton
I grew up reading Enid Blyton’s school and mystery stories. I particularly loved The Five Find-Outers who were a group of children who went about solving mysteries by looking for clues and dressing up in disguises. The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters is a perfect example of the type of mystery they were solving.
- Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie holds a special place in my heart. I moved on to reading her novels when I was about twelve years old and I loved them so much that I wrote my own detective novel which I called The Imposter. It’s difficult to choose a single story, but one of my favourites is Murder on the Orient Express because the plot is so clever and it shows a more complex side of Hercule Poirot.
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
I became interested in the classics when I studied them at school. I love Hardy’s sense of place and his exploration of themes such as social constraints and fate. My favourite Hardy novel is Tess of the D’Urbervilles because it is such a poignant and truly tragic tale about a wronged heroine. I learned a lot about character and description from Thomas Hardy.
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
When I read Wuthering Heights in my teens, I was mesmerised by the ghostly and gothic elements. I loved the fact that Cathy and Heathcliff didn’t behave in the decorous way that conventional heroes and heroines were supposed to behave. The brooding atmosphere Emily Brontë creates is an inspiration for psychological stories.
- The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
In my late teens, I discovered John Fowles and was thrilled by his dark themes. I devoured The Magus and The Collector, but The French Lieutenant’s Woman is my favourite. It’s a complex story about a ‘fallen’ woman living as an outcast in Victorian society. The story also takes place in one of my favourite places – Lyme Regis. Every time I visit, I imagine Sarah Woodruff standing on the Cobb looking out to sea.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
In my twenties, I read a lot of American literature. For me The Great Gatsby is a perfect novel. It’s the tale of a group of wealthy New Yorkers living during the 1920s Jazz Age. The shallowness of their lives is brilliantly portrayed through the characters that surround the lonely figure of Gatsby. Despite the cynical story, the language is beautiful and the imagery superbly chosen which makes the message all the more powerful.
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Daphne du Maurier is one of my favourite authors and yet I didn’t read any of her books until I was in my thirties. I’m not sure why she slipped through my net, but it was a joy to discover her. I have chosen Rebecca because the story has such a sense of creeping unease, perfect for psychological fiction. I love the fact that the title character never appears and yet neither do we learn the name of the protagonist.
- Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Kate Atkinson is a brilliant contemporary author. I admire how she writes in different genres with the same witty style. I have chosen Case Histories because it is an excellent story. In the novel, we are introduced to Jackson Brody the likeable and flawed private detective who features in subsequent novels. The rest of the characters are brilliantly drawn too and Kate Atkinson deals with difficult themes in a very subtle way.
- The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
Maggie O’Farrell has a writing style which appears effortless yet is beautiful and often moving. The Hand That First Held Mine follows the lives of a young couple in the present who have had a baby under difficult circumstances. At the same time, it tells the story of a young woman, Lexie Sinclair who is living her life at the heart of the1950s Soho art scene. The stories entwine and become a truly tragic tale.
- The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
I have read The Lovely Bones several times and each time I have cried. The book tells the heart-breaking story of a young teenager, Suzy Salmon, who is brutally murdered right at the beginning. She then narrates the rest of the story from heaven, describing her family’s grief and following what happens to her murderer. It’s so original, combining all the elements of horror and emotion that makes for an unforgettable novel.
The Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana is published by Mantle, Pan Macmillan,
Anna Flores was just a child when her adored teenage sister disappeared.
Unable to deal with the pain, Anna took the first opportunity she had to run from her fractured family, eventually building a life for herself abroad.
Now, thirty years on, her mother has died, and Anna must return home to sort through her possessions.
In doing so, she has to confront the huge hole her sister’s disappearance left in their lives, leaving just one question unanswered: what really happened to Gabriella?
Because not knowing is worse than the truth.
Jenny Quintana is the author of the psychological mystery The Missing Girl which was chosen as a Waterstones thriller of the month in 2018. Her second novel Our Dark Secret is published in February 2020. She has taught in London, Seville and Athens and now lives in Berkshire with her husband, three children and two dogs.