Article published on May 5, 2017.
Is there anything more interesting than finding out what your favourite authors like to read and which discoveries, perhaps, have inspired their own novels?
We don’t think so – many thanks to the lovely Cesca Major for obliging us with her five favourites!
The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons
I adored Natasha Solomon’s debut the quirky, warm Mr Rosenblum’s List so her second had a lot riding on it. The book is set in the Dorset countryside during World War II and centres around the story of Elise Landau, a Viennese Jewess, who applies to become a domestic help in England to escape the troubles in Europe. The book is a great mix of light and dark. Natasha Solomon has the ability to draw such a vivid cast of characters. We get a real insight into a dying world, an old order. Then there are the little glimpses of local history that drag you straight back into the 1930’s and wish you could experience it all for yourself. There is humour and charm on every page.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This is my favourite book of all time. I wish I had written it. The style is interesting, told through a range of letters from different characters. The tone, wit and characterisation are exceptional. We see what Nazi occupation of Guernsey was like during the Second World War and learn a lot about the local population and their reaction to it. This book moved me to tears on more than one occasion and also made me laugh out loud. No mean feat. As I closed this book I had that dreadful realisation that the characters in the pages were fictional and I could never meet them in real life.
The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell
The Shadow Year is simply everything a book should be – it’s a fantastic page-turner with dual story lines that impact on each other. The description is rich but doesn’t slow the pace, the characters are multi-faceted, flawed and believable. It is 1980 and a group of students find themselves enjoying a hot, humid day out in a hidden cottage by a lake. They decide to live there for a year relying only on nature and the bare necessities. But the plan doesn’t go as they hoped. Thirty years later Lila is recovering from a terrible accident. A mysterious parcel arrives containing a large iron key, the deeds to a house and no note. The key unlocks the cottage and Lila sets about discovering just what went on all those years ago. It is compelling stuff and Hannah Richell writes so lyrically the whole book is an utter joy.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
I could choose any of Liane Moriarty’s novels – in my opinion she can do no wrong. She always creates books with excellent premises, furious page turners with real emotion, wonderfully dry wit and great plot twists. This book is no exception – imagine waking up ten years older than you think you are and finding the man you loved (and married) loathes you (and divorced you) but not remembering why. A fun, frolicking read that keeps you guessing – I loved it.
The Night Rainbow by Claire King
I do love a book written from a child’s point of view and this was one of the magical things that worked in Claire King’s fabulous debut. The Night Rainbow is a story about a five year old girl called Peony, or Pea as she is known, and her sister Margot. It is the story of one summer in France. Maman is sad because Father has died and because of the baby, and Pea tries everything she can think of to make her happy. It is a book about friendship, family, love, loneliness and grief. I adored this warm, wonderful debut. The setting is impeccable. Pea is a total delight and the book will make you smile and break your heart a little bit.
Cesca’s latest novel is The Last Night, now available in paperback:
In a peaceful coastal village, Irina spends her days quietly restoring furniture, hiding from a long-held family secret. When an antique bureau is sent anonymously to her workshop, Irina senses an uneasy history to the object. As she investigates its origins, the mysteries it holds are slowly revealed…Decades earlier, another young woman also kept secrets. Over the course of one halcyon summer, Abigail fell in love and dreamed of the future. But she could not know that catastrophe loomed, and this event would change the course of many lives for ever…
The Last Night by Cesca Major, published on 4 May, 2017 by Corvus, in paperback
Main image of Cesca Major © Natalie McKenzie Brown