Thursday 25 February 2016

My Life in Books ~ talking to author Amanda Jennings

My Life In Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've invited authors to share with us a list of the books that are special to them and have made a lasting impression on their life.

I'm thrilled to welcome Amanda Jennings to Random Things today, it's a special day for Amanda as her third novel, In Her Wake is published by Orenda Books today. I reviewed her previous novel, The Judas Scar  on Random Things in April 2014, and was honoured to have the opportunity to read a very early copy of In Her Wake, I reviewed it in January; here's a taster from my review:

"In Her Wake is psychologically chilling, but it is also a beautifully observed story of a journey of self-discovery. Amanda Jennings' words are alluring, persuasive and so incredibly elegant, the reader is carried along effortlessly into Bella's world. Her characters scream with realism, her settings are well observed and precise and the insight into the human mind and the power of family relationships is both unsettling and convincing."

When I was asked to write a piece entitled 'My Life in Books' I squealed with delight. What lovelier way to spend time, thinking back over all those books that have made a particular impact on me. Obviously it's hard for any book lover to narrow down their list of favourite books and doing so feels disloyal because there are so many that should also be included. But here are nine of those which have stayed with me, and the reasons why. Thank you, Anne for allowing me to share them.

For The Love of the Horse (Jinny of Finmory) by Patricia Leitch   I was obsessed with horses as a child. I drew them, dreamed of them, and sucked up this series of books by Patricia Leitch as fast as I could. What's not to love? Jinny moves from a dreary, grim town to the remote Scottish Highlands. She has to ride to school (did you hear that?! She has to ride to school!!) on a scruffy pony called Bramble. Then along comes a beautiful, untrusting and wild Arab mare called Shantih who escapes from a circus and is tamed by Jinny. Jinny then gets to gallop her across the moors feeling the heat and power of this magnificent animal beneath her. This is everything my childhood dreams were made of. 

The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper   Susan Cooper showed me what it was to be transported by magic carpet to another world. I must have been about eleven when I read the first in the series, and it was the first time I lost myself fully in the pages of a book. 
This was a world I wanted to live in. Will Stanton's world, where real life collides with fantasy, where prophesies, legends, and the ultimate battle between good and evil swept me up and carried me away. Bliss.

Animal Farm by George Orwell    This allegorical gem from George Orwell was the first book to make me cry. I cried in class as we took turns to read aloud. I didn't care if anybody saw my tears, all I cared about was Boxer being carted away, his innocence and loyalty, abused and manipulated. It was a knife in my gut.
Just remembering this passage now has made me cry all over again. 

The Beach by Alex Garland  I read this book whilst feeding my first daughter. I saved reading it for night-feeds and would pick it up when she woke and put it down as soon as she finished. I'd travelled around Asia before going to university, and the places are people Alex Garland described felt wonderfully familiar. I loved how he played with the idea of utopia and examined the fragility of society. 
But mostly this book reminds me of those quiet hours in the middle of the night spent happily reading while my tiny new baby peacefully fed.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee   Soon after we got together, my then-boyfriend, now-husband was appalled when he found out I hadn't read this and thrust his well-worn copy at me, insisting I read it. Everything about this story of prejudice, hypocrisy and justice transfixed me, and the thought that this man loved it so passionately only made me love him more.
I gave him a copy of the book which is signed by Harper Lee for our first wedding anniversary, and it's one of the few material things I'd save in a fire.  We gave one of our daughters the middle name Scout, in honour.

Flowers In The Attic by Virginia Andrews  As a teenager I read every horror book I could get my hands on. Stephen King and James Herbert were my favourite, but it was this series by Virginia Andrews that was my true guilty pleasure. Twisted, dark, evocative and highly addictive, I couldn't get enough. My mother, a true liberal who never stopped me reading anything, read a few chapters and proclaimed it a 'horrific' book. 
I always wanted to be a rebel, but it's hard to be a rebel when you come from liberal parents, so continuing to gleefully read this series was the closest I came. That and ignoring her disdain for The Cure. 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak   This beautiful, ambitious, tragic, thought-provoking, extraordinary book by Markus Zusak, is the book I wish I'd written.

Toast by Nigel Slater  I love food and I love to cook. I have recipe books piled up beside my bed and read them for pleasure. Nigel Slater's passion for food drips from every word of this delicious memoir told through his childhood memories of food.
Nostalgic, evocative, moving and exquisitely written.
I could read and reread it again and again. Food and beautiful words ... not sure it gets much better than that!

Amanda Jennings lives just outside Henley-on-Thames with her husband and three daughters.
In Her Wake is her third novel. She's a regular guest presenter on BBC Berkshire's weekly Book Club, and enjoys speaking at literary festivals, libraries and book clubs.
When she isn't writing she can mostly be found walking her dog and dreaming of being up a mountain or beside the sea.
She writes a blog and is an active user of social media.

Find out more about Amanda Jennings, and her books at her website
Follow her on Twitter @MandaJJennings


1 comment:

  1. I loved the Patricia Leitch books too! I'd forgotten all about them so it's lovely to be reminded by your post. Still envious of Jinny!

    Great to know that Amanda has a new book out too. Enjoyed Judas Scar so In Her Wake will be another for my TBR list, thanks for the heads up :-)

    Stephanie Jane