This week’s Inheritance Books come from Carrie Parker. Welcome to the Inheritance Books sofa, Carrie. Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Carrie Parker and I live on the beach near Rye in East Sussex, England. At least, Carrie Parker is my pen name. My day job as a horticultural consultant involves writing factual, accurate reports for my clients and I don’t want them getting confused with my novels of pure fiction!
I chose my pen name in honour of my grandmothers: Carrie was my paternal grandmother’s name and Parker was my maternal grandmother’s name. Both of them were extraordinary women, in completely different ways, and both were strong influences in my life. As a young child, we lived in my grandmother Parker’s small terraced house in Yorkshire. One of my earliest memories is of being left outside the local lending library in my large, old-fashioned pram, my older sister on guard, whilst my mother performed the weekly ritual of changing Gran’s library books. When we got home, Gran would seize the books and start reading immediately, late into the night, by gaslight. I can remember wondering what it was that was so interesting about reading books – it wasn’t long before I found out and it has stayed with me all my life.
Which book have you inherited from a generation above? Why is it special?
When I was six, I won a prize at school for “Superior Answering”. The prize was a book and my mother was asked to select one for me. She chose a favourite of hers: “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell. My sister and I would sit on the sofa with my mother, in front of the fire, as she read a chapter of the story to us every night before bed. We both liked animals but an “animal autobiography” was new to us. As a young child, in some ways it was a difficult book to cope with, but its powerful anti-cruelty message has stayed with me. Published in 1877, Anna Sewell didn’t write it as a children’s book but to draw attention to animal cruelty. Its message is clear and not out-dated – alongside the obvious concerns for the treatment of animals runs the theme of how we should all respect and show kindness to others. Which is what my mother always did.
Which book would you leave to later generations? Why?
The book I would like to leave for future generations is “A Suitable Boy” by Vikram Seth. This is a wonderful book of epic proportions – certainly physically, at almost 1,500 pages. It will be a bit of a challenge, as we are told the attention span of the younger generations is already diminished by our current technologies, but it is a brilliant example of the sustained pleasure to be had from immersing oneself in a really enthralling book. The book is set in the newly-independent India of the 1950s and centres around four families and, in particular, one mother’s efforts to arrange a marriage for her daughter to “a suitable boy”. Beautifully written, without pretension, the book gives a real insight into the political and societal changes happening in India at that time. How the characters deal with the emotions of heartache and disappointment that accompany the pursuit of happiness and the quest for love in a complex and changing world has universal resonance.
I was drawn to this book after working in India for several years and seeing first-hand the trials and tribulations facing young Indians seeking happy relationships amidst the religious, caste, sex and political complexities still prevalent in India in the 1990s. Although times and attitudes continue to change, essentially this is a book about family and I think it will speak to many generations to come.
Thank you so much for sharing your Inheritance Books with us, Carrie. Best of luck with your latest book.
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