Editor-in-chief Anne-Marie Curtis on the books that still influence her today
I have always loved reading. In fact, my love of fashion was first fuelled by the vivid descriptions of clothing in some of my most treasured childhood books; Noel Streatfeild’s wonderful portrayal of the outfits in Ballet Shoes and Hilary Knight’s genius illustrations of the anarchic Eloise in Kay Thompson’s iconic series of the same name, to name just two.
Some characters still inspire me to this day, from Ludwig Bemelmans’ brave and adventurous Madeline to the brilliantly observant, hilariously dry teenager Cassandra Mortmain in Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle. And, perhaps a little controversially, the resourceful, intrepid manoeuvres of Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair surely mark her as a feminist of her time?
Then there are the novels and stories I go back to again and again. The ones that make me cry, laugh out loud, or sometimes both: The Grass Harp by Truman Capote; Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy; Stella Gibbons’ truly brilliant Cold Comfort Farm. I’ve read them all countless times.
When it comes to authors, I will buy books by my favourite contemporary women writers without ever needing to read a review. That list includes anything by Maggie O’Farrell, Kate Atkinson, Zadie Smith, Linda Grant, Jennifer Egan and Donna Tartt.
Perhaps due, in part, to my roots on my mother’s side and early readings of her Edna O’Brien collection (a great source of sex ‘education’ in my teenage years), I’m also a sucker for an Irish writer: Sebastian Barry, Joseph O’Connor and Anne Enright being just three of my favourites. There are more good books in the world than I will ever get to read in a lifetime, and it’s impossible to imagine my days without them.
Unsurprisingly, my passion for books is the fuel of my lifelong love for print, which is something I’ve worked to celebrate here at ELLE. Sure, we’re navigating a digital world (I can’t think of any greater proof of this than Elizabeth Holmes’ fascinating feature on the new wave of CGI social-media influencers on page 62), but I love how a magazine, like a book, provides an opportunity to slow down. It gives you the chance to lose yourself in the experience of an immersive long read or inspiring imagery — work that has taken time to produce and, in turn, demands the luxury of time to consume. One of the great things about reading a good book is, of course, sharing it with those around you. We know the ELLE audience are passionate readers, so in this spirit, we introduce Hearst’s Big Book Awards, for which we’ve judged the Women Writers category. From a beginners’ guide to mental health to a feminist reworking of Greek mythology (my personal favourite), the nine books that made our longlist are all the summer reading you need – find them on page 68, and look out for the winning title in our October issue.
Speaking of summer, this is the time of year when we begin to look ahead to the next season in fashion. Just as our minds are turning to summer Fridays and far-flung holidays, autumn may feel (and be) months away, but the collections are all hitting stores now. And while it seems early to think about investing in a new coat, there’s plenty to get excited about wearing before the season officially begins, from the bursts of neon that brightened the runways at Balenciaga, Prada and Calvin Klein 205W39NYC to the barely-there mini dresses at Saint Laurent. This issue guides you through it all, beginning with our complete A to Z guide to the season’s big ideas (page 32) and running straight through to our collections shoot, starring Lara Stone and styled by ELLE’s new fashion director, Gillian Wilkins (page 82).
When it comes to going on holiday, our beauty section is there to cover all your travel needs, with a special-edition Shelfie featuring your favourite make-up, hair and skincare products in miniature form (page 143). And if your summer plans don’t involve getting on a plane, fret not. Our travel feature Cool Britannia on page 146 is a round-up of the chicest, coolest and most luxurious new coastal and countryside destinations to vacay in, located right here in the UK. Happy summer!