This week’s Inheritance Books are from my fellow Choc Lit author Sarah Waights. Helloo, Sarah. Welcome to Inheritance books. Can I offer you a slice of my (experimental) chocolate orange cake?
Now we’re comfy, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi Rhoda. Thanks so much for inviting me on your inheritance books blog and – may I just say – what a fabulous idea!
So, what can I tell you about myself? Because of my father’s job in the RAF and diplomatic corps, I had a strange childhood, moving from place to place. I was at boarding school for most of it, joining my parents in the school holidays at whatever exotic location they had been posted to. The most unlikely fact about me is that I’m a trained classical singer and this comes in handy (not) in my professional life where I’ve spent years working in public relations, campaigning and lobbying on everything from plastic card fraud to disability rights. The lobbying work did inspire the background for my novel, ‘Never Marry a Politician’ which gently makes fun of the whole parliamentary and party political scene, with its massive egos, continuous spin-doctoring, and back stabbing at every turn. Nowadays, I am happy to multi-task unsuccessfully with family, marketing consultancy, charity work and a fat black Labrador taking turns to demand my attention in our little Sussex cottage where there would be roses around the door if I ever got around to the gardening.
If I’m typical there’s nothing writers like better than reading and I was a prolific reader long before I thought I might be a novelist myself… At boarding school I escaped into a book every minute I could spare and worked my way through the school library, devouring everything from Camus in translation to endless worthy, improving books about the saints and their lives (it was a convent, after all). There was also a thriving underground supply of ‘unsuitable’ books by authors such as Danielle Steel and Virginia Andrews which we all read under the blankets at night and found absolutely riveting.
Virginia Andrews oo-er. I remember feeling cheated when I found out that those books were ghostwritten. Moving on (more cake?), which book did you inherit from a generation above? Why is it special?
Although I was basically undiscerning, and still am, my chosen inheritance book reflects my mother’s early influence on my reading habits. She instilled her own love of reading in me at an early age and, when I was ten, gave me a beautiful leather bound edition of ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte (pictured). In my first reading of it the depiction of Jane Eyre as an isolated and lonely child appealed hugely to my inner drama queen. I lapped up the early parts of the book where she is rejected by her cruel aunt and packed off to Lowood Institute for orphans where she befriends fellow student, Helen Burns, before waking up to find Helen has died in the night. I thought that was all marvellous stuff. At that age I was perplexed at why Jane was so smitten by grumpy Edward Rochester though, and I didn’t think much of saintly and boring St John Rivers either. Reading it a few years later, and again at various times through my adult life, I find something new to admire about Charlotte Bronte’s writing and insights every time. Given her own very sheltered life, her depiction of Jane and Edward as such complex and believable characters is an extraordinary feat, and the timeless popularity of the book is no accident. ‘Jane Eyre’ is an absorbing story for readers of any age and era.
Which book would you leave for later generations? Why?
I was given a box set of Roald Dahl books which is very precious to me. Although the box set I later bought for my own children is an awful lot bigger – arguably his best known books are the more recent ones such as The Witches and The Twits – my book choice to pass down is one of Roald Dahl’s earlier stories; ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ entranced me and it was the Dahl story I always turned to when I was looking for a bit of familiarity and escapism. I adored the idea of the network of tunnels and the Fox family’s house under the tree. The grotesque comedy villains, Boggis, Bunce and Bean are easily outwitted by Mr Fox who is a proper action hero as well as being charm personified. The illustrations in this early edition are by talented artist, Jill Bennett, and – by an extraordinary twist of fate – Jill has become a great friend of my mother, who is also an artist. I was so excited to have the chance, a few years ago, to tell Jill how charmed I was by her work and to show her my very well thumbed copy of the book (pictured).
Thank you for having me Rhoda. I hope you and your readers enjoyed hearing about my inheritance books. Well done again for a brilliant idea. x
Why thank you. And thank you for sharing your favourite books with us. Best of luck with your book. I read it a while ago and now I watch the wives when they’re standing beside their politician husbands and wonder what they’re thinking.