Welcome to Lesley Sanderson, author of The Orchid Girls.
Thank you, Ruby for inviting me to write about my favourite subject on your blog.
Reading made my childhood special and the magic of reading a good book is a delight I relish today. Every Saturday my friend and I would visit the public library in Enfield and borrow our (pitiful) allocation of four books. The librarian had a cupboard where she kept new books and I was so excited when she produced a book for me from this cupboard.
Today I work as a school librarian as well as being an author and count myself lucky to have spent my life surrounded by books.
Selecting ten books is not an easy task but I have chosen those books that have stayed with me since first reading, no matter how long ago.
- Upper Fourth at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
I devoured the books of Enid Blyton from an early age and have picked this title as I remember it came out when I was on summer holiday by the seaside somewhere and the huge excitement I felt when I saw it. It had gone up in price from 12 ½ shillings to 17 ½ shillings but I had to have it, reading it under the covers at night and being caught and told off by my dad. How I longed to go to boarding school and have adventures with my best friends like Darrell and Sally did.
- Not Scarlet But Gold by Malcolm Saville
Malcolm Saville’s Lone Pine series were an absolute favourite of mine – a group of children coming from different parts of the country converging on Shropshire and solving adventures in true mystery genre fashion. The novels were mostly set in Shropshire, with the occasional change of setting to Rye and London. I wrote to the author and he wrote (handwritten) letters urging me to one day visit the locations featured in his books, which I have gone on to do thanks to meeting a friend at university from Shrewsbury who took me to explore the Long Mynd and the Devil’s Chair. Not Scarlet but Gold particularly captured my imagination as a child with a twist revealing the meaning behind the title although I could have chosen any of the Lone Pine Series.
- The L-Shaped Room by Lynn Reid Banks
Aged fifteen I applied to work as a Saturday worker for Islington Libraries and at the interview was asked what the last book I read was, the answer being The L-Shaped Room by Lynn Reid Banks. It’s a book set in the fifties about a twenty seven year old woman slung out by her middle class family and moves into a room in London. The book tackles some big issues and was an eye opening read for me at that age. And I got the job!
- Little Girl Lost: The Life and Hard Times of Judy Garland by Al DiOrio
I read this around the age of fifteen when I began working as a Saturday library assistant, thrilled at having a whole library of books at my disposal. The tragedy of Judy’s life stayed with me and I discovered a love for autobiographies and biographies particularly those set in the world of the theatre and concerning addiction and personal struggles.
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Another book I have read multiple times but I will never forget the state of tension I was in on first reading of this books as the horror builds and the protagonists realise what they have done. An exclusive group of students studying classics at a New England college get involved in depraved activities with far reaching ramifications.
- The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier
Although Rebecca is also a favourite of mine I have chosen this lesser known title from Daphne du Maurier, set in Cornwall. When Dick Young’s friend offers him an escape from his troubles in the form of a new drug, Dick finds himself caught up in an adulterous world of intrigue and murder. This book was fascinating and different and I got swept up in the past story as does Dick with unsettling consequences.
- A Sight For Sore Eyes by Ruth Rendell
Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine is another favourite author of mine; these are her psychological thrillers as opposed to police procedurals but some of her later writing as Rendell crosses over and this is one of them. Set in contemporary London three separate strands come together leading up to one of the chilliest endings ever which is why the book has stayed with me. I went to see Ruth speak at an author event and was fascinated to hear that she had no idea when beginning a book who the guilty party was.
- The Tremor of Forgery by Patricia Highsmith
I am a huge fan of Patricia Highsmith and collect her books. This one is a particular favourite, set in Tunisia which forms a great background the plot revolves around an American who, finding himself abandoned in Tunisia begins to write a novel. The novel brims with tension and unsettling events. Great characterisation, relationships and murder make this a thrilling read.
- A Place of Execution by Val McDermid
I’ve read every book written by Val McDermid and fondly remember the Lindsay Gordon series but this is one title which stands out for me. It concerns the disappearance of a thirteen year old girl in 1963, and has such a sense of brooding menace and an unexpected twist as well as a sense of place which brings the Derbyshire village to life.
- Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
I’ve chosen this book, a relatively recent read because of the twists. It’s incredibly clever and plays with the reader and I changed my mind several times about who the characters actually were, only to have everything I believed to be true overturned at the end. Taut writing and a unique voice made this book stand out for me.
The Orchid Girls by Lesley Sanderson is published by Bookouture.
‘Now we are bound forever,’ she says, her eyes determined. ‘I will never tell anyone, I swear. This is between you and me. Now you swear too.’
They called them the Orchid Girls. Grace. Molly. Charlotte.
One of them is in love. One of them is a liar. One of them is dead.
On a jagged Dorset cliff, wind whipping their hair, waves crashing on the rocks below, three friends became two when Charlotte’s body was pulled out of the sea.
Fifteen years later Grace and Molly are worlds apart. Grace has a glittering career and a loving husband. Molly is a lonely, unemployed alcoholic. Grace has everything to lose. Molly has nothing.
They have moved on from the tragic accident that shadowed their childhood. But somewhere lies a photograph waiting to be unearthed – waiting to reveal a secret that one of the Orchid Girls is desperate to keep hidden…
Lesley spends her days writing in coffee shops in Kings Cross where she lives and also works as a librarian in a multicultural school. She loves the atmosphere and eclectic mix of people in the area. She has lived and worked in Paris and speaks four languages. She attended the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course in 2015/6, and in 2017 was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish fiction prize. Lesley discovered Patricia Highsmith as a teenager and has since been hooked on psychological thrillers. Her third psychological thriller will be published in January 2020.