Welcome to Julia Barrett, author of, My Sister is Missing.
Thank you Ruby for having me on your blog!
First and foremost I’m a reader. My childhood home was full of books and my mum took my brother and me to the library nearly every weekend. I still love the smell of libraries and the promise of being transported into a new world and discovering new authors continues to thrill me.
Choosing ten novels that have influenced my writing has been a fun task, and difficult to whittle down to a definitive list. But I’ve chosen ten that have spurred me on, sparked my imagination and showed me how to refine my craft.
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I remember devouring this book when I was eleven. Falling down the Rabbit hole is a great metaphor for reading. I love how Carroll transports us into a new world that is somehow familiar, yet frighteningly different. As an adult I confess to often feeling like Alice.
- Carrie by Stephen King
I read Carrie when I was being bullied at school and this narrative still resonates today when I think about the effect bullying has had on my psyche. Perhaps that is why I’m writing about it in my current work-in-progress. King shows us an ‘othering’ via bullying and the girls establish their power by isolating Carrie. Carrie doesn’t survive the bullying and abuse; she becomes a monster distorted by the suffering she experiences. This has inspired me to make my character fight back against the bullies and not be defeated.
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Wuthering Heights, rather dramatically, is the novel that changed my future. As a teen I loved music and envisaged myself as a clarinettist. I read Wuthering Heights and fell in love with reading all over again. Instead of pursuing a music degree, I knew I wanted to study Literature as this text begs to be read over and over. The terror of Mr Lockwood’s encounter gripped me from the start, and I was mesmerised by the unsettling love story and how the past never lets us go. This is a novel that I’ve re-read multiple times throughout my life and interpreted it differently each time.
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
This is a book that I think everyone should read. It is the first of six autobiographies. Angelou experiments with the form and rises to the challenge put to her by her editor who told her to write ‘autobiography as literature.’ She vividly portrays life growing up in segregated America and the racism and misogyny she faced. I love the character arc in this novel as Maya overcomes her inferiority complex and finds confidence and strength to challenge societal structures.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I love Margaret Atwood and this is my favourite of her novels. At 17 I remember thinking how horrific, this could never happen . . . and yet? I love how Atwood used examples of oppression which existed in history across the globe. Offred is a quiet heroine who rebels and resists in ordinary ways and this provides us with an everywoman who we all can relate to. There’s a dark humour in the writing and I love how this often frames the chapters.
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Here is a masterclass in building a character who the reader never meets directly. She’s viewed through the lens of others and what they say about her creates a three dimensional representation of the murder victim. Du Maurier creates a fabulous nameless narrator, who at times is unreliable and naïve, but always brilliantly compelling. Her character arc is the most interesting as she evolves from the gauche girlish companion to take on the identity of the second Mrs de Winter. I love the intricacies of the plot and how the Cornish landscape plays its part in the narrative. Again here is a novel that you should read at different times of your life as you’ll always see something fresh. I totally changed my opinion of Mrs Danvers on my last reading!
- Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Jean Rhys releases the ‘madwoman in the attic’ and brings ‘Bertha’ – Antoinette – out of the margins and into the centre of her novel. Rhys explores how European texts created and exploited the myths of colonisation. Wide Sargasso Sea tells the ‘other side’ of the story and the real cruelty of Mr Rochester. In my own writing, I’m fascinated by representations of madness and how characters are ‘othered’ by external forces.
- Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
I love Sarah Waters, and Fingersmith feels like a novel that asks the writer in me to consider the dichotomy of plot vs character. The plotting of Mrs Sucksby sets off the action of the novel, but the wants and determinations of the characters begin to derail her plans. This is a novel that is best read twice. The twists are superb and on second reading you begin to look for the signs of the twists. The dual narrative really layers the reader’s understanding of each character’s motivations and lies.
- The Power by Naomi Alderman
Honestly, who wouldn’t want to be able to shoot out electricity from their hands? And here lies the premise. If one gender held physical power over the other, how would they wield that power? In a world where women take back the power from men, would we expect women to use this power in a ‘feminine’ way? Alderman shows us that when it comes to power, it is a corrupting unstoppable force. An imbalance in power will result in an unbalanced and troubled world.
- Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
Oh Elsie! This novel fuses a brilliant voice with an emotional heart that will keep hold of you long after you’ve finished reading. Cannon not only manages to create a superb character whose distinctive voice rings out from the text, but she also keeps up the suspense beautifully throughout this tale of friendship, ageing and memory.
I’m not the wife you think I am
Just weeks after giving birth, new mum Stephanie Henderson and her baby girl disappear.
With husband Adam in despair, and the police investigation stalled, it’s up to her sister Jess to find them. But when Adam starts to behave suspiciously, Jess starts to question what really happened.
Following news of a tragic accident, she suspects the worst and, in turmoil, goes in search of answers. But Jess isn’t prepared for what she uncovers . . . or for what happens next.
This is a twisted psychological thriller that will make you question what is real, and whether you really can trust those you love.
Julia Barrett began her working life as a primary school teacher. She has worked in Public Relations for the NHS and as an in-house journalist for Queen Mary, University of London. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of Hull. She is a Faber Academy alumna and is currently working towards the completion of an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. She grew up in Yorkshire and now lives in Essex with her husband and two children.