Daily Mail


- BETH O’LEARY Rom-com author

. . . are you reading now?

I’M DOING a comfort re-read of The Key To My Heart by Lia Louis. She’s a fabulous writer, who deserves a spot on every bookshelf — her style is warm and funny, and I find a kind of restfulnes­s in her novels. They are the sorts of books you want to settle in with, preferably under a blanket.

This novel is about a young widow who plays at the public piano in a train station. One day, she finds someone has started leaving her sheet music of all her husband’s favourite songs, and as she tries to figure out who it might be, she begins a journey of recovery from grief.

. . .would you take to a desert island?

PRIDE And Prejudice by Jane Austen, because it is one book I never tire of re- reading. Austen has the most incredible eye for human nature, and it amazes me how vivid her characters feel, even after more than 200 years.

I always find new joy in Elizabeth Bennet’s story — and Mr Darcy’s declaratio­n of love never fails to make my stomach flutter.

If I could get away with a giant volume of Austen’s complete works (like Grigg in The Jane Austen Book Club) rather than just one of her books, then that would be even better.

. . . first gave you the reading bug?

I ADORED the Brambly Hedge books by Jill Barklem. I remember sitting with my back against the bookshelf as a very young child, poring over the illustrati­ons, conjuring up my own stories of what was happening to the little mice.

The books are quite small — I still have my old, battered copy of the Autumn Story — but in my memory they’re enormous, balanced across my knees.

As an older child, I was completely captivated by the novels of Tamora Pierce, who writes bold female heroes in fantastica­l lands.

Her The Song Of The Lioness series inspired me to pen countless very bad rip-offs as a young teen, when I was first exploring novel-writing.

. . . left you cold?

I OFTEN struggle with non-fiction — the most recent book I put down without finishing was Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.

It’s a fascinatin­g topic, but factual writing rarely captures me the way a novel does, and it’s pretty unusual for me to make it all the way to the end of a non-fiction book.

I tend to feel I’ve ‘got the gist’ after a few chapters, and find myself craving a page-turning love story instead . . . n THE NO-SHOW by Beth O’Leary is published in paperback by Quercus at £8.99.

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