Tuesday 22 March 2016

My Life in Books ~ talking to Antonia Honeywell, author of The Ship ** BLOG TOUR **

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.

Today is a special edition of My Life In Books - as part of the Blog Tour for The Ship by Antonia Honeywell which was published in paperback on 10 March 2016 by W&N (Orion)
The Ship was originally published in hardcover in February of last year, I reviewed it here on Random Things in January 2015.

Here's a taster from my review:

"Antonia Honeywell is an exciting new talent. The Ship is original and quite brilliant. It is terrifying at times, the reality, the possibility, the way that it makes you think. The author explores many themes during her story, not least, the question of how far we would go in order to survive."

My Life in Books - Antonia Honeywell 

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield was the start of a love affair with Streatfield that persists to this day. 

As a child, I craved the independence of the Fossil girls, as an adult, I admire her grown-ups. They're completely centred on the children in their care, whatever limitations are placed upon them by life and circumstances. 

Except Aunt Claudia from White Boots. She's a cow. 

The Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher introduced me to the joys of science fiction. 

My year five and six teacher, Mrs Burgess gave me this copy. 

I thanked her politely then, but I thank her wholeheartedly now.

This is my copy of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4. It's a first edition, but it's been read and so loved it's falling apart. 

Who knew, then, that it would be a phenomenon? 

I was eleven years old and desperately unhappy; this book made me laugh, and that was enough.

Throughout my late teens, I only read novels by dead people. I wanted to think that this was because I was unusual and strange, with better taste than people who didn't go round wearing constant black. Actually, it was because in those days, classics were much cheaper than modern novels. You could get a Penguin Classic for £1.99 - most titles also came in a budget edition for a pound, which was fine for a teenager who wouldn't have listened to anyone else's opinion anyway and was living on what she could earn by waitressing. 

This is my beloved Middlemarch by George Eliot, the best value price per word of any novel ever.

At sixteen, I fell in love with Thomas Hardy. What got me - and still does - is the way his characters aspire to greater things than society and fate have decreed for them. Jude wants an educations, Eustacia wants to travel beyond Egdon Heath. Tess wants to marry Angel. And Michael Henchard just wants to turn back the clock. That's all. They're thwarted and broken - but they don't thwart and break themselves. The world just isn't ready for them. 

Hardy gave me permission to walk a little out of step with the crowd. And if the price of that was that I'd die alone, face down, in the gutter - well, I was only sixteen. I thought it'd probably be worth it. 

When I read Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit , by Jeanette Winterson, the top of my head almost came off. Here was a character who was out of step with her surroundings, who rejected the codes and customs of the world she grew up in. And yet she wouldn't submit to dying alone, in the gutter or anywhere else. She would only submit to being herself. And Jeanette Winterson was alive. Very much alive. 

The words I was reading had been written only a short while before. There would be more books. The sense of life and possibility was dizzying. 

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons is my desert island novel. 

I used to read it out loud to my mother, with all the voices. 

Years later, my boyfriend, wanting to know what I was laughing at, read it out loud to me. 
This is you, he said of Flora Poste, and so I married him.

Maggie Gee's The Burning Book changed my life. I'd read Robert Swindell's Brother in the Land at the same time as my parents were going through an apocalyptic divorce. The collapse of the world seemed a perfectly rational concept to me. And here was Maggie Gee, not belittling that fear, or dramatizing it, but using it to tell a story about ordinary people. 

Reading The Burning Book gave me permission to write through the various fears I'd carried with me from childhood. 

Dorothy L Sayers' detective novels are my mainstay when I'm ill or jaded or just plain tired. I can practically recite them. 

I love the relationship between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane - a marriage of passion, based on admiration, open-mindedness and mutual respect. 

They're also brilliant stories.

And finally, to bring us bang up-to-date, a current novel I loved and fervently hoped would make the Bailey's Prize longlist this year, Sophie and the Sibyl by Patricia Duncker is a delightful, intelligent and warm fictional exploration of the life and personality of George Eliot. 

It's a tribute to one of my favourite authors, by one of my favourite authors, and I recommend it - and all Patricia Duncker's novels - most heartily.

Thank you so much for having me Anne - I've loved the opportunity to have a ramble through my shelves.
I've got another several hundred favourites here to add .... choosing was the hardest part!

Antonia Honeywell, March 2016

Antonia Honeywell studied English at Manchester University and worked at the Natural History and Victoria and Albert Museums in London, running creative writing workshops and education programmes for children, before training as a teacher.

During her ten years teaching English, drama and film studies, she wrote a musical, and a play which was performed at the Edinburgh Festival.

Antonia was one of the stars of Curtis Brown's inaugural creative writing course. She has four young children and lives in Buckinghamshire.  The Ship is her first novel.

For more information about Antonia, visit her website www.antoniahoneywell.com
Find her Author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @antonia_writes

Antonia is a member of The Prime Writers, a diverse group of talented writers who have one thing in common; every one of them published their first book when they were over the age of 40.

The Prime Writers have more than 60 author members, find out more at www.theprimewriters.com

Follow The Prime Writers on Twitter @theprimewriters


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