Many authors say that they can’t read other novels while they’re writing their own, afraid that the style and tone will rub off on their own work. But I’m the opposite, I read, read, read while I’m writing. Sometimes I read novels for their particular tone and style, others for their content, and of course non-fiction for research. I probably read about 160 books over the two years it took me to write Bitter Orange, some purely for pleasure, but many because they threw a light in some way on the story I was writing. Here are six that were perhaps the most influential, but more importantly they are books that I love and would recommend to anyone.
6. Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
I’ve been going on about how much I love this short novel since it was published in 2016. Told over the course of an unseasonably warm Mothering Sunday in 1924, Jean Fairchild, a maid in an English country house meets her aristocrat lover for the last time. The writing has a beautiful lazy tone; dated and sunny, and sad, and the story, told from memory has a beautiful cyclical quality, as memories often do. Then right in the middle it punches you in the stomach.