Books: what the authors read – Fliss Chester
What books do authors favour? We've had a rummaged through the bookshelves of Fliss Chester, the Surrey-based author of five novels, to discover some of her faves.
By Giuseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa
This meandering tale, narrated by the elderly Prince of Salina, about his worries regarding his nephew Tancredi and his country (Sicily) at the time when Garibaldi was unifying Italy, is a beautiful read. The author, himself the last of the Sicilian ‘Leopards’, or ducal princes, writes with such poignancy about the details of everyday life in the 1860s that it’s easy to imagine yourself there in the crumbling palace with the family. It’s one of the only books that I have ever reread (see below for the other), and that’s because of the sheer joy you can take from the beautifully crafted phrases and immersion in the Leopard’s world. There’s so much to glean from this Italian masterpiece, and I’d say none of it is lost in translation.
Pride & Prejudice
By Jane Austen
Yes, I know, Colin Firth… wet shirt… I get it, there are plenty of reasons why this book has topped the best-seller charts for a century or so, but for me it’s Austen’s ability to notice the smallest, but most meaningful things and turn them into whip-smart observations. She writes about all of society’s foibles with incredible humour and turns of phrase that leave authors like me doffing my bonnet at her mastery of the craft. Along with The Leopard, this is a book I could read again and again, for the sheer enjoyment of the language as much as the story.
The Thirteen Problems
By Agatha Christie
A collection of short stories, all standalone mysteries yet all connected by everyone’s favourite aged amateur sleuth, Miss Marple. The premise is that a group of friends all meet and exchange stories, all of which have an unexplainable element, usually a murderous one. Of course Miss Marple solves each one in her inimitable style, more often than not referring back to her experiences of the villagers in St Mary Mead as her inspiration. For me, not only is Christie the very best there is when it comes to crime fiction, but the short story style of it makes it eminently more readable at a time when lots of people are finding it hard to concentrate on longer novels.
The Colour of Magic
By Terry Pratchett
A children’s book? Gothic geekery? Fantasy escapism? It’s all three… but a whole lot more than that, too. This is the first of the Discworld series and in it we’re introduced to Rincewind the Wizard and his guard-dog like chest that walks on many legs, The Luggage. Open it up (the book, not The Luggage, who might bite your hand off) and let yourself be whisked away to Pratchett’s fantasy world. I would be very surprised if even the most hardened cynic or self-proclaimed hater of fantasy fiction didn’t at the very least smirk at the constant humour in the writing. Personally, I laugh out loud.
By Jilly Cooper
The first of the Rutshire Chronicles is unashamedly saucy and downright iconic among lovers of romantic fiction. Today’s readers might find some of the scenes more sexist than sexy, but I think there was a generation (ie mine) for whom Olympic show jumper Rupert Campbell-Black was the epitome of charm and suave heart-throbbing manliness. The story romps along, with the reader firmly in the hot sweaty saddle – no wonder Cooper is an inspiration to many romance writers today.
Fliss Chester is the author of five novels, with a sixth due out in April. Her first three books – Love in the Snow, Summer at the Vineyard and Meet Me on the Riviera – follow the romantic liaisons of Jenna Jenkins.
Her second book series – The Fen Churche Mysteries – are period whodunnits following amateur sleuth Fenella Churche as she solves crimes straight after the second world war. There are two novels in the collection, A Dangerous Goodbye and Night Train to Paris, published in August and November last year with the third in the serious due out shortly.
Fliss – a former Guildford High School pupil – lives in a 17th Century cottage near Godalming with her husband and their demanding cat.