Sunday 5 March 2017

My Life In Books ~ talking to author Ruth Hogan @ruthmariehogan #MyLifeInBooks

My Life in Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've asked authors and people in publishing 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 delighted to welcome author Ruth Hogan to Random Things today. Ruth is the author of The Keeper of Lost Things which was published by Two Roads Books in January this year.  I read and reviewed The Keeper of Lost Things here on Random Things in December, here's a snippet from my review.

"This story is multi-layered, with a range of themes. It's a love story, it has a bit of magic, there are ghosts and story-telling. The author explores family dynamics, relationships, illness and loss, and all are dealt with beautifully and with feeling.

The Keeper of Lost Things is an absolute delight. It is gentle and charming and full of wisdom. I loved every page."
Follow her on Twitter @ruthmariehogan
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My Life In Books ~ Ruth Hogan

My love of books began when I was very young. My mum taught me to read before I started school, and bedtime stories were non-negotiable. I joined the local library as soon as I was old enough. The first time I read Finn Family Moomintroll I was completely enchanted. Theirs was a magical world full of strange creatures and wonderful adventures, and Moomintoll looked like the cuddly cousin of a hippopotamus.

I try to read this every Christmas. Dickins’ prose is as rich and satisfying as a Christmas pudding and his characters leap from the page.  Its message becomes more relevant each year, but above all it’s a stonking good story. Also, it has ghosts!

This is a beautifully told coming-of-age story about a thirteen-year-old boy, set in Western Australia in the 1960s. Charlie Bucktin wakes in the middle of the night to someone knocking on his window. His visitor is a charismatic, rebellious, mixed-race loner called Jasper Jones. Jasper needs Charlie’s help, but when he shares his horrifying secret, the repercussions are momentous.  It reminds me of both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the film, Stand by Me, but having said that, it’s a true original and absolute joy to read.

This is the book that made me want to write. I was hooked from the very first line, which has stayed with me ever since I first read it. It’s a delightful story, charmingly told, but with hidden depths. Eric Malpass created a world where I wanted to go and live. I wanted his characters to be my family, and when I finished reading it for the first time, I felt lost without them. His writing appears effortless, but is immensely skilful; both comic and tragic in turn. He inspired me to want to create magic with words.   

I first read this book when I was at university and absolutely loved it. I have a fascination for cemeteries, particularly Victorian, Gothic graveyards, and so this was always going to be a winner for me. The plot (no pun intended) centres around two funeral homes and cemeteries – one for humans and one for pets. Waugh boldly takes a subject that very few novelists would choose to write about and turns it into a triumph. It is irreverent, dark, funny, tragic and completely compelling.

Forster’s novel is a witty and astute observation of the Britisher abroad and stifling Edwardian social conventions and etiquette. His heroine, Lucy Honeychurch, is definitely my kind of kickass girl. Raised by her well-meaning mother to be a nice, young lady, Lucy is on the brink of a disastrous but socially acceptable marriage when she ditches her eminently suitable, wealthy, but horribly snooty fiancĂ©, and instead weds the dashing, handsome, poor but so much more passionate George. Go girl! 

I collect photograph books. Photos inspire my writing, and I’m always intrigued by the frozen moments of other people’s lives that they capture. Diane Arbus is one of my favourite photographers and Untitled contains a series of images taken at residences for the mentally retarded in America between 1969 and 1971.  In the afterword, the photographer’s daughter, Doon Arbus, describes her mother’s work as ‘created out of the courage to see things as they are, and the grace to permit them to simply be’. The images in Untitled are profoundly moving, sometimes magical but always completely honest.

I’ve just finished reading this, as it was my book club’s latest choice. The novel begins with the death of the pope and charts the progress of the conclave formed to elect his successor.  I was fascinated by the descriptions of the complex rituals involved, and the plot twists and turns throughout. I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did. The premise doesn’t sound very thrilling – pope dies and one hundred and eighteen cardinals are locked in the Sistine Chapel until they can agree upon a new one. But it was a hugely enjoyable   read and demonstrates the effectiveness of book clubs to force us out of our literary comfort zones to good effect!
Ruth Hogan ~ March 2017


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