Today - the 9th August - is Book Lovers Day. (No, I did not know this was a day either.)
Because of the day I am not only running a bookish giveaway on my twitter: @ElliePilcher95, I thought I would also share my top 5 books which have impacted my life in some way or another, and led me to writing my book My Mr Keats.
1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This was the first classic I ever read off my own back. I picked it up in the school library and read it during 10 minute silent reading in my year 8 English class. I was 12. I remember loving it so much that I put my nose in it whenever I had a spare moment: at lunch, whilst walking home, on the bus, lounging on my bed etc. I finished it in about a month - I was a slow reader when I was younger - and it has stayed with me ever since. The most impactful thing it taught me was that it was okay to have a dislikable protagonist. My realisation into the fact that not all heroes/heroines have to be beautiful, kind, and looking for romantic love in order to succeed. They can be sarcastic, rude and searching for familial love instead. It really resonated with me as characters suddenly became very 3D, as opposed to the sub-standard 2D way I had seen them before. I see a lot of Mary in Kitty, which makes me happy.
2. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian
This was one of my primary school reading club books. I was in a class with about 16 other 'forward readers' at the age of 8 and we read this over 6 months. I adored it! I got so sick of waiting for the teacher to sound out 'hard words' that I skipped ahead - I knew about the fate of Zach before anyone else! The horror! - and I have read and re-read this book several times since. I see a lot of Willie in Johnny, and of course the era of the book had a big impact on my writing and My Mr Keats too. (It's set in WW2 for those that haven't read it).
3. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
This is a beautiful story about what makes a family, and self-discovery, with obvious racial themes. Set in the 1960s just after the the equality acts in America was passed, this story follows Lily who accidentally killed her mother when she was 4 years old. This event impacts her whole life - obviously - but it's the guilt, loss and longing for forgiveness that drives her to find herself and her family. This is a wonderful story with some real hard-hitting themes. I often read this book every year. I took a lot from the warmth of August Boatwright, who was a definitive inspiration for Jenny in My Mr Keats and also the effect losing a mother at a young age, and being the cause of it, for the relationship between Kitty and her mother.
4. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
The story that told me it was okay to re-write history, respectfully. This was my first 'adult' historical fiction novel and I loved it. As a person with a History degree now I can tell you it is riddled with mistakes - but it is fiction after all - and I don't mind. The personification of the characters in this story are great! Particulalry Anne Boleyn with her clever tricks and manipulative ways. You feel for her so strongly, whilst also loathing her. Look out for some of her more manipulative qualities in Mrs Castleton in My Mr Keats.
5. The Reader by Bernard Schlink
If ever a book made me consider the thoughts behind a characters actions, it is this book. Short, beautifully written and absolutely heart-wrenching, I adore this story. It considers everything from a characters past to the community around them, in such a minimalistic way to make it utterly believable and memorable. It also travels across time wonderfully. I definitely took a lot from this book whilst writing My Mr Keats: Hanna's biting humour appears somewhat in older Kitty, the travelling across time to move the plot also appears, and the continuation of feeings for someone you know you could never be with is a huge part of my story as well.
Overall, these are the books that I could never part with - them, and Harry Potter - and they have so very clearly affected my writing in more ways than one.
Let me know what your favourite books are; the ones that have affected you in some form or another.
And don't forget to share a link to My Mr Keats on #BookLoversDay! The best day to get a book into the world!
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