Wednesday, 21 September 2016

My Life in Books ~ talking to author Gill Paul @GillPaulAUTHOR

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

I'm really pleased to welcome Gill Paul to Random Things today.  
Gill is the author of  nine novels as well as a collection of non-fiction books.  I recently read and reviewed her latest novel, The Secret Wife here on Random Things. I also reviewed her non-fiction book, World War I Love Stories back in June 2014

Gill Paul is a Scottish-born, London-based writer of historical fiction and non-fiction. Her novels include Women and Children First (2012), which was shortlisted for an RNA award, The Affair (2013), and No Place for a Lady (2015), which was shortlisted for a Love Stories Award.
Her non-fiction includes A History of Medicine in 50 Objects (2016), World War I Love Stories (2014) and Royal Love Stories (2015).
Gill has written about relationships for a number of newspapers and magazines, and has an occasionally successful sideline in matchmaking.
She swims year-round in an outdoor pond.

For more information about Gill Paul and her writing, visit
Follow her on Twitter @GillPaulAUTHOR

My Life in Books ~ Gill Paul

Heidi by JohannaSpyri This was a book I read and re-read as a child, sobbing every time little Heidi has to leave her grandfather’s cottage in the mountains. I remember vividly the descriptions of her homesickness as she is ill-treated at the house in town where she is employed as a lady’s maid. What completely passed me by at the time was the religious dimension to the story.

Charles II by AntoniaFraser I developed a Charles II obsession as a teenager and read all I could about him. In effect, he was my first proper crush. I particularly liked Antonia Fraser’s biography because she brought the personalities of the mistresses vividly to life: the high-maintenance Louise de Keroualle, whom naughty Nell Gwynne had such cruel nicknames for, and the bad-tempered Barbara Villiers. I had shockingly poor history teachers at school but Antonia Fraser and my mum gave me my love of history.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath As a morose teenager, I was drawn to this book like a moth to a candle and re-read it many times. What might make someone decide to take her own life? Where is the line between sanity and madness? The knowledge that the author did finally succumb to despair makes it all the more compelling and sparked an interest in mental health issues that I retain to this day.

The Women’s Room byMarilyn French I had very low self-esteem in my late teens and early twenties and fell hopelessly in love with a succession of boyfriends who treated me badly. This book marked the beginning of the turnaround, when I realised I didn’t have to put up with cruel behaviour any more. God bless you, Marilyn French.

The Revolution Withinby Gloria Steinem I suspect this might seem quite dated today, but Gloria Steinem’s explanation of how we can nurture our inner child was my first introduction to this key principle of therapy. It’s about developing self-esteem and not feeling we have to slot into predetermined women’s roles or lead conventional lives, and to me it was a revelation.

Birdsong by SebastianFaulks This still crops up on many people’s all-time favourite lists. It’s remarkable for the portrayal of the sheer trauma of war and I can’t remember any other book that has made me cry quite so much. But it is also very influential for the clever structure, dipping backwards and forwards in time to fill out the story. It was hugely influential when I was writing my first novel.

Poisonwood Bible byBarbara Kingsolver I love everything about this: the richness of the language, the growing sense of danger, but most of all for the way the author gives a completely different voice and character to each of her five narrators, the wife and daughters of Nathan Price, a Baptist minister who is trying to convert the people of the Congo in 1958. Barbara Kingsolver is a genius at creating unique, compelling characters. I wish I had a tenth of her talent.

Stet by Diana AthillThis is the memoir of a woman who spent most of her working life as an editor for André Deutsch. I bought it to read her portraits of publishing’s well-known figures and fell in love with her complete candour. She tells uncomfortable truths plainly and without excuse. Her other volumes of memoirs are equally compelling. I love her. I read everything she writes, and often go to her talks. Now 98 years old, she’s a wonderful role model and I’ll be delighted if I manage to be anything like her in my later years.

Gill Paul  ~ September 2016


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