Welcome to Lesley Kara, author of The Rumour.
Thank you so much, Ruby, for inviting me onto your blog today and many congratulations on your recent debut! I wish you every success with it.
It’s always difficult whittling down one’s favourite books into a list like this because there are so many brilliant novels out there – both classic and contemporary – and many of them have influenced my writing in different ways. I have a fairly eclectic taste in reading and have gone through many reading ‘phases’ in my life, but ultimately I’ve chosen the ten books that have stayed with me over the years, books I’ll always remember and which have had a profound effect on me, both as a reader and a writer. So here goes!
- The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton
It was Enid Blyton who first whet my appetite for reading as a child, and I soon progressed from the Noddy books to The Famous Five and the Secret Seven. I loved solving mysteries along with the characters and even started my own secret club. Perhaps my love of crime fiction started right here!
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
In many ways, this is a prototype for the psychological suspense genre in which I now write – a young woman whose well-being is continually tested, who doesn’t know if she can fully trust the man she loves, and the mysterious threat that in this case comes from within the house. Jane Eyre is, of course, many more things besides, but the building sense of crisis, the gradual revelation of secrets and lies and complicated backstories all serve to make it a compelling and suspenseful read, and one that I devoured as a young girl.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I read this novel long before Bruce Miller’s recent TV adaptation and have strong memories of how it made me feel – the anger and revulsion combined with an urgent need to continue reading. The TV series is brilliant, and the themes are even more resonant in today’s political climate, but I will never forget the emotional and political power of the original novel and the effect it had on me as a young woman.
- Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola
I first read this at university and was struck by how Zola creates such a claustrophobic and menacing atmosphere out of two people’s guilt and remorse. The murder of Thérèse’s husband, which she and her lover Laurent thought would make them free, ultimately destroys them both. One of my assignments was to produce a piece of creative fiction told from the viewpoint of one of the characters and the feedback I received from the tutor gave me confidence in my own writing.
- The World According to Garp by John Irving
This is one of my favourite novels of all time. Heart-breaking and hilarious, full of life but with tragedy and death ever-present, it is a vast, chaotic sweep of one man’s lifetime, a forward-thinking book for its time, and a wonderful insight into the human condition. If ever a book made me yearn to be a writer, this is it.
- Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
This is another ambitious and complex narrative that manages to be exuberant and bleak at the same time. Told with Atkinson’s trademark wit and dry humour, this novel chronicles the lives of six generations of women, weaving back and forth in time and examining the nature of memory. I learned such a lot about ‘voice’ by reading this novel.
- From Doon With Death by Ruth Rendell
To be honest, I could have picked any book by Ruth Rendell, but I’ve chosen this one since it was her first published novel and the first outing for Inspector Wexford. It started me on my lifelong passion for her work and for crime fiction in general. I always knew, when picking up an Inspector Wexford mystery, that I was in for a good ride, and she always, but always, managed to surprise me.
- Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
It was watching Kenneth Branagh in the TV series Wallander back in 2008 that first introduced me to Mankell’s books, brilliantly translated by Steven T. Murray. In Faceless Killers, as in all of the Kurt Wallander novels, Mankell blends a dramatic plot with social criticism, as all the best crime novels do. But what I love most is his style of writing – so tight and clean and unpretentious, and so fitting for crime fiction.
- The Gift of Stones by Jim Crace
Before reading this, if anyone had told me that I would be enthralled by a novel about a Stone Age community threatened by Bronze Age technology, I simply wouldn’t have believed them. But Crace is one of those writers who draws you in with his poetic imagination and lyrical prose. A novel like this reminds me of the importance of reading widely and keeping an open mind about what I will or won’t like. Reading is fuel for a writer.
- Your Blue-Eyed Boy by Helen Dunmore
This darkly beautiful novel with its rising sense of menace and shifting narratives manages to meld the most captivating prose with an intriguing and unsettling plot. It is a literary thriller with a remote seaside setting, the descriptions of which inspired me when I came to write my own novel, also set in a coastal community.
The Rumour by Lesley Kara was published in paperback on 25 July 2019.
Joanna has heard a chilling rumour: that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity in the small town of Flinstead-on-Sea. Joanna never intends to pass the rumour on, but one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back…
Sally Mcgowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago. No photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.
So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, once she realises what it is she’s unleashed?
Lesley Kara is an alumna of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course. She lives on the North Essex coast. The Rumour is her first novel and was a Sunday Times bestseller. Her second novel, Who Did You Tell?, is coming soon.