Our regular ‘Consultant in the Hot Seat’ slot has been hijacked this month by our Administrator, Katie.
If you were given the chance to have one superpower from any book/comic character, what would you have?
I don’t know if it counts as a superpower, but it would be pretty cool to have a dæmon, like the characters in the His Dark Materials trilogy. It would be amazingly comforting to have a constant companion. I’m not sure what form mine would take though. If I could choose I’d have some sort of bird.
Failing that, pretty much any magical ability from Harry Potter. Transfiguration would be great – you could turn into an animal and sneak around to your heart’s content.
Which three books changed your life?
The Witches: I’m a massive Roald Dahl fan. I recently took my niece to see the musical of Matilda – I’d been waiting for her to be old enough for ages, because I wanted to go! I love the book of Matilda, but in terms of life-changing it has to be The Witches. I remember buying it from one of those book clubs that used to come round to your primary school in the pre-internet age. I don’t know exactly how old I was, but I remember getting to the part where the boy is trapped in the ballroom with the witches, and realising I was slightly too young to cope with this just yet! I sensibly put the book on the shelf for a few months until I felt ready to face the horror! In recent years I had the priviledge of studying the book with 11 year olds in Sweden, who loved it too. I got pretty good at doing the Grand High Witch’s voice while reading aloud to them!
To Kill a Mockingbird: I’ve read so many books, but I’m generally very bad at remembering what happens in them! TKaM stays with me because I studied it for GCSE, so naturally I read it very many times, and my copy is annotated in various different coloured pens to represent the different themes. It’s a fantastic book, and I really enjoyed studying it. It’s probably what inspired me to go on to do A level and eventually degree level English Literature. The characters and morals are so strong; they really speak to you as a teenager incensed by the injustice of the world.
Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy: At university I studied English Literature and Language. I was tempted to put the Norton Anthology of English Literature on this list (in tribute to the late MH Abrams) but I can’t honestly say that I read it from cover to cover! I found at times that studying ‘serious’ literature could get a bit heavy. I remember going through a bit of a tough time in my second year, getting stressed about nothing, as you can easily do when you’re a student. Douglas Adams had recently passed away, and my aunt and uncle bought me the commemorative ‘trilogy’ box set for Christmas. Never having been particularly into sci-fi, I was a bit sceptical at first, but I loved it. H2G2 is my favourite book, because it helps you put things into perspective. It’s humorous, irreverent and life-affirming.
Which literary figure would you like to be?
Jo March. She’s so gutsy. Actually I should have put Little Women in the previous category, but I ran out of space. I remember being about eleven or twelve, and my English teacher saying I should start to read adult books. I was a bit daunted by this, and went through a brief phase of not really knowing what to read. That summer my family went down to Devon in our caravan, and stayed at this beautiful campsite in the grounds of an old hall, which had a library. Campers were allowed to borrow books. That was when I discovered Little Women, which felt quite grown up to me at the time. There were some tough parts to deal with, but overall I really enjoyed it. Reading that book marked a transition for me into adolescence, and it gave me the confidence to read other ‘adult’ classics.
What are you most looking forward to in 2015?
Well like many people I’ll be really intrigued to read Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Also, the BBC have been trailing their adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell which looks fantastic. That was such a great book – incredibly atmospheric – so hopefully the adaptation will do it justice. And of course, as a massive Benedict fan, I can’t wait for the new series of Sherlock!
True Fact: Katie once discussed the assembly of Swedish flat-packed furniture with HRH the Countess of Wessex!