I am principally a reader of fiction; romantic, historical, contemporary, occasionally a thriller or crime story. But this summer, I have been drawn to non-fiction.
It started with Margaret Forster’s, Hidden Lives, which I should have read long ago. In following the lives of her grandmother and mother, she traces the path of women from the late 19th century to the late 20th, exploring their changing expectations and opportunities and how lives were governed by marriage, unplanned child-bearing and men.
Next was a recommendation from a friend; Tim Bentinck’s, Being David Archer. As a long time Archers fan, the detail about the radio programme was fascinating, but the life of an Archer’s actor, who, I was surprised to learn, cannot earn enough playing the one part, proved equally entertaining.
Jenni Murray’s Memoirs of a Not so Dutiful Daughter followed. Jenni is a familiar voice in our house as I try to listen every day to Woman’s Hour or catch the podcast. This book left me with many things to ponder and a fresh attitude to the broadcaster, who revealed deep feelings regarding her relationship with her mother.
Perhaps you have read, The Salt Path? It is uplifting, amusing, takes the reader from despair to hope, reminded me of my long trek to Santiago de Compostela. But this couple carried a tent, and after losing everything, often went hungry. I was in awe at the courage of Ray and Moth and desperate to find out what had happened to them beyond the tale narrated by Ray.
Finally, I met a young cyclist called Emily Chappell at the Stonyhurst Literacy and Film Festival in July. She spoke eloquently about long distance cycling in some harsh conditions, but I was hooked in to her novel, What Goes Around, which tells the story of her life as a cycle courier in London. Not only did I find Emily to have a certain way with the written word, I was astounded by the lives of these couriers and the grit and determination she showed.
I am near the end of writing Walking Alone, my third novel. Essentially, it is fiction, but based on fact – the realities of walking the Camino de Santiago, the places along the way, the life of a pilgrim have to be accurate in the telling of the story. Yet it all has to be seen through the eyes of my characters, not as I experienced the walk.
Research can be tedious, this is a delight. I can only hope that, one day, it will be enjoyed as much as I have enjoyed all of the above.