Guildford Book Festival 2011 - bestselling Surrey authors share their top reads

PUBLISHED: 09:04 21 September 2012 | UPDATED: 12:06 28 February 2013

Guildford Book Festival 2011 - bestselling Surrey authors share their top reads

Guildford Book Festival 2011 - bestselling Surrey authors share their top reads

Autumn's arrival signals a time for leaves to fall and pages to turn in Surrey, as Guildford Book Festival brings the literary inclined to the fore in our county town

Guildford Book Festival 2011

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine October 2011

Autumns arrival signals a time for leaves to fall and pages to turn in Surrey, as Guildford Book Festival brings the literary inclined to the fore in our county town. Here, we speak to a few of this years authors, all of whom are appearing over the course of the festival, to find out what books have caught their attention lately

Nev Fountain
My favourite recent read is a collection of sublime and ridiculous stories from Surreys very own Brigadoon. Louis De Bernires Notwithstanding is about a fictional village thats a hop and a skip from Godalming. Living a hop and a skip from Godalming myself (and suspecting that the village I dwell in is at least semi-fictional), this was a natural book for me to seek out. Louis has spun Notwithstanding out of a beautiful skein of sepia-tinted childhood memories; catching fish, walks to church, pet rocks, mad nuns... The stories are so light and whimsical they seem to float straight into your head without the inconvenience of reading the words. My favourite tale is Mrs Mac, which is like the film The Sixth Sense as if written by Beatrix Potter. Wonderful stuff.

LA Larkin
I have just finished reading The Wreckage by Michael Robotham, which is a departure from his psychological thriller series. This is a government and banking conspiracy story that had me on the edge of my seat. Told through intriguing characters, Michael brings to life the horror of Iraq and the menace of an assassin known as The Courier, which he skillfully combines with a touch of humour. Recently, I appeared at a book festival with Michael. He revealed the idea for The Wreckage came from a discovery that four of the biggest bank robberies in history had taken place in Iraq. That got me hooked!

Keith Jeffery
The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming is predicated on the notion that there was a sixth man beyond the famous Cambridge Five spy ring of which Kim Philby was the most famous. This is an intriguing notion and Cumming plausibly moves the action on from Cold War rivalry to more enduring antagonisms between the British and a Russian intelligence service prepared to undertake lethal operations in the West. The gripping narrative concerns a naive English academic, who wanted to think the best of people and to trust that human decency would win through, but gets caught up in a predictably nasty and hazardous web of deceit. With echoes of Le Carr, it portrays an MI6 populated by amoral apparatchiks who believe that spying is not at all about ideological conviction, duty or loyalty to ones country, but weaknesses the lust for money, for status, for sex.

Chris Grace
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel deserves every accolade already awarded. I began with health warnings from others running in my ears: It is difficult to get into; it is never clear who He is; it is too heavy But, fortunately, I persisted. Winner of the Man Booker Prize, Wolf Hall is essentially the life and times, up to 1535, of Thomas Cromwell and the narrative is continuously from his perspective. It recreates the Tudor world unlike any other I have read. It has imaginative insights and descriptive prose that take your breath away. I have read it four times and learnt something new each time. As a reviewer put it, Wolf Hall is a feast. Read it!

Felix Francis
I read The Junior Officers Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars by Patrick Hennessey as part of my research for my novel Crossfire, but it was far from being a chore. With my own son, William, serving at the time with the Grenadier Guards in Afghanistan, it was my way of finding out a little more about his life on the front line. Hennesseys description of the boredom of war broken only by brief episodes of high-adrenalin excitement and bowel-moving fear makes the reader believe that he, too, is there face-to-face with the Taliban. Yet it is also a reflective piece. It is not a history of strategic decisions and why, it is the personal views and raw experiences of a young man sent far from home to do and die.

Hallie Rubenhold
I loved How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran, and the fresh perspective it offered on being a female in the 21st century. For a start, Moran not only embraces the term feminist, but completely reinvents it. Being a feminist comes down to simply wanting to maintain control over your own body, not hating men or plotting to take over the world. Its about treating people with respect and men can be feminists too. It was fascinating to read this so soon after writing Mistress of My Fate, which is about a young woman in the 18th century attempting to assume some control over her body and her life. In spite of the difficulties women face today, its quite uplifting to think how far weve come!

Francine Stock
I caught up this summer with Edmund de Waals affecting history of his familys effects, The Hare With Amber Eyes. It is as beguiling as the very objects that inspired it, the exquisitely made Japanese netsuke. And although its hard to find a copy outside a library, Id also recommend Iris Barrys 1926 Lets Go To The Pictures, a sparkling, perceptive account of what now seems to us the adolescence of cinema-going. Shes sharp on the film-makers, touching and vivid about the audiences and remarkably prophetic. If we dont speak up, she warns, theyll serve us rubbish.

Isabel Ashdown
A book I recently loved was Crow Lake by Mary Lawson, which is the tale of a young family growing up against the beautiful but harsh landscape of rural Northern Ontario. With my own writing, it is always the characters and their relationships that fascinate me most. In Crow Lake, Lawsons characters develop with rare subtlety, to gradually reveal the story of a family falling apart at the seams. From the beautiful descriptions of magnificent rural Ontario to the evocative storytelling across the generations, this is a story that lingers compelling, lyrical and wise.

Martin Bell
I have just finished Cables from Kabul, written by Sherard Cowper-Coles, our former ambassador to Afghanistan. It is a vivid account of missed opportunities, both military and diplomatic. In my view, it is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand how so many of our foreign adventures end in disappointment and at what a cost!

Ceri Radford
Ive lost count of the number of times Ive read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. A close family friend gave me a copy for my sixteenth birthday and Ive still got it: a little battered, a little yellow, but still there on my bedside table. It may sound trite, but there is something so basically comforting about knowing that theres a happy ending ahead. And Austens writing is anything but trivial: I find something new to admire in her elegant but waspish prose every time I read it. Her comic characters the pompous Mr Collins, the breathless Mrs Bennet are superb, while Lizzie is my favourite literary heroine: clever, funny, feisty and flawed.

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Guildford Book Festival 2010

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine October 2010

Autumn's arrival signals a time for leaves to fall and pages to turn in Surrey, as Guildford Book Festival brings the literary inclined to the fore in our county town

Based in Guildford, well-known author ADELE PARKS has written nine bestsellers, including Love Lies and Tell Me Something, and sold over a million copies of her books in the UK alone. Her latest novel, Men Ive Loved Before, was published in July.

What Im reading
This year, I am a judge for the Costa Novel Award, which has involved reading close to 60 books in a period of 14 weeks and Im still in the middle of that, says Adele. The task is at once exhausting and exhilarating. Ive been challenged to read widely, outside the genres I traditionally pick, which has been good for me as a reader and a writer. I took nine Costa Novel Award contenders on holiday with me but still managed to run out of reading matter. The local English bookshop did a line in classics, so I bought The Great Gatsby, which I havent read for 20 years. A taut, insightful and beautiful novel.

Writer of the best-selling Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, about Stone Age boy Torak and his beloved wolf, Wimbledon resident MICHELLE PAVER is one of the areas leading authors.

What Im reading
As Ive had a noisy summer plagued by roadworks, Ive been rereading Tove Janssons A Winter Book, says Michelle. Its a collection of short stories, many of which vividly evoke the wild Finnish coast that Jansson knew so well. Her writing is clear, cool and unsentimental. Here are two of my favourites: an old woman on a remote little islandencounters a squirrel, which comes to dominate her life;and a small girl meets her first iceberg. Both stories are beautiful, and true to icebergs and squirrels as well as to people, and make me long for the Arctic.

Festival patron ELIZABETH BUCHAN may not be a resident of our fair county, but born in Guildford she can still always be relied upon to support her hometown festival. Her latest novel is entitled Separate Beds.

What Im reading
Im half way through The Junior Officers Reading Club and, so far, the reading club has not had an airing (I think that will come later), says Elizabeth. It is the portrait of a rookie soldier and the process by which he is forged into an officer ready for the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is hard to convey the high-octane drive to the book taut, brutal, outrageously funny and shocking. As a despatch from the heartlands of modern warfare, it is revelatory. As a savagely honest examination of man as soldier, it is a classic.

Best known as Peggy Archer and the only original member of the cast still in The Archers, BBC Radio 4s longest running soap opera, East Horsley resident JUNE SPENCER released her autobiography, The Road to Ambridge, in October

What Im reading
Usually, I like to read books that are out of the ordinary and perhaps a bit challenging, says June. But now and then, I choose something to make me laugh. At present, I am reading The Prostrate Years by Sue Townsend. Her humour is so succinct and her wonderfully awful characters are brought to life so roundly by her sharp wit. A joyful read.

Born in Kashmir and brought up in Derbyshire, Guildford resident ALEXA GOODWIN is one of three sisters who have devised a spice box (as used by the Hairy Bikers) and released the appropriately named The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook.

What Im reading
At the moment, Im reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which is a heartbreaking, yet funny novel, says Alexa. It has been some time since I have read a book that I found so hard to put down. It perfectly captures life in the 1960s, the racial tensions and the women who, though they worked for white families and raised their children, were never fully accepted. I really felt the friendship these three women formed, Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny, was something very special. This truly is a remarkable novel and a story that has stayed with me long after it was finished.

Writing historical crime books under the pseudonym of SJ Parris, STEPHANIE MERRITT is a features writer for The Guardian and The Observer and author of the Heresy series. She lives in Guildford.

What Im reading
I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance proof copy of Freedom, the new novel by Jonathan Franzen, which came out in September, says Stephanie. I loved The Corrections and his collections of essays and Im quite obsessed with him as a stylist hes probably one of the smartest and most perceptive chroniclers of modern life. Again, its a study of one family against a backdrop of social and political change, and its also darkly funny, which is essential for me in any serious novel.

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