Sarah Perry The book that ...
The book I am currently reading
I am going through an Alan Garner phase – again. I am about to read The Owl Service, and hope to be thoroughly spooked in that comforting, autumnal way he does so well.
The book that changed the world
Certainly one book that changed the world – not necessarily for the better – is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. It’s a series of riveting narratives, was wildly popular, and arguably did much to form the English consciousness. I’m not saying John Foxe is entirely to blame for Brexit, but there’s something about it that helped foster a kind of suspicious English isolationism, always keeping an eye out over the channel for marauding European forces ...
The book I wish I’d written
Either JL Carr’s A Month in the Country, or Fred Uhlmann’s Reunion. Both are technically peerless works, exquisite in style and in structure, seeming very small but containing multitudes. I read them and feel like an apprentice carpenter looking at a Chippendale desk.
The book that had the greatest influence on my writing
I wish I could name a book that I chose, so I’d feel I was in control of what influenced me most – but the truth is that it was the King James Bible. Growing up, it was read aloud at mealtimes and privately in our rooms, recited at Sunday school, and declaimed at enormous length from the pulpit. It formed my idea of what good prose can and ought to be.
The book I think is most underrated
Dan Rhodes’s When the Professor Got Stuck in the Snow is a comic masterpiece to rival Jerome K Jerome or PG Wodehouse. Like the best comedy, it’s also deeply serious.
The last book that made me laugh
Amanda Craig’s The Lie of the Land, which is part Trollope and part Jilly Cooper, and as satisfying a novel as I have read in years. It is a wickedly observant comedy of manners, very alert to the way we live now.
The book I couldn’t finish
Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. What can I tell you? It felt like someone was hitting me over the head with a plastic spoon.
The book I’m most ashamed not to have read
I shudder to confess so great a sin, but I – of all Hilary Mantel fans, the most ardent – have twice failed to read Wolf Hall. In my defence, it is so bewilderingly good that it makes me want to set about my hard drive with a lump hammer, which is not a useful impulse when you have a work in progress.
The book I most often give as a gift
Katherine by Anya Seton, which I buy in secondhand bookshops whenever I see it, ready to give away to the next person who needs it. Katherine was a low-born girl who married John of Gaunt, and Seton’s novel is alive with political scheming, forlorn love, ambitious women and the Black Death.
The book I’d most like to be remembered for
I hope one day I’ll write a book worth remembering.