Actively looking for: historical fiction; upmarket commercial women’s fiction; voice-driven crossover fiction; novels with evocative, unusual settings; narrative non-fiction; illustrated non-fiction with a strong and current hook; projects in the area of mindfulness, meditation and yoga; books with an emphasis on empowerment and self-worth.
I studied history at university, and historical fiction remains a big love. I’m looking for strong protagonists in this area who can convincingly take me into the past. One of my all-time favourite books is Paullina Simons’ THE BRONZE HORSEMAN – it sweeps you up with its brutal evocation of Leningrad under siege and the heartbreaking love story that unfolds. As an editor in publishing I acquired Cesca Major’s THE SILENT HOURS, which centres around a true-life tragedy that unfolded in unoccupied France during World War Two. I’d like to see more historical fiction in this vein – accessible and emotionally affecting.
I like novels with a strong sense of place: THE ESSEX SERPENT on the Colchester marshes; MY BRILLIANT FRIEND in tough and vibrant Naples; SHANTARAM in the Mumbai slums; THE PEOPLE’S ACT OF LOVE in unforgiving Siberia; THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES in frontier Canada. I love visiting new places through the stories I read, and am on the look-out for unusual settings and hooks.
With women’s fiction I’m looking for something that goes over and above – novels that make me laugh, cry or approach the genre in a new and unpredictable way. I was impressed with how THE VERSIONS OF US played with different versions of the same couple’s life, and how LIFE AFTER LIFE saw the same life in differing ways. Surprise me! I’d also love to find a contemporary love story with the emotional power of THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE or ONE DAY.
I’m drawn to magical elements and darker themes. I’m a fan of Sarah Waters’ books, with their sharp protagonists, evocative backdrops and unexpected twists and turns. I also read everything and anything by Haruki Murakami, with the rich, otherworldly atmosphere he creates and his hugely imaginative plots. As well as this I like younger voices who are dealing with contemporary issues – ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES, THE SHOCK OF THE FALL and PAPER BUTTERFLIES were all books I couldn’t put down.
Another great passion of mine is yoga, which I teach, and I’m interested in working with new voices in this area spanning both fiction and non-fiction: quests to find oneself against difficult circumstances, to break away from the everyday, to live more mindfully and to learn from Eastern traditions… If you have the new THE ALCHEMIST or have written a memoir in line with Cheryl Strayed’s WILD, I’d love the opportunity to have a read.
Ten of my favourite fiction books:
THE BRONZE HORSEMAN Paullina Simons
NORWEGIAN WOOD Haruki Murakami
FINGERSMITH Sarah Waters
MY BRILLIANT FRIEND Elena Ferrante
ANY HUMAN HEART William Boyd
THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE Maggie O’Farrell
THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS Isabel Allende
HALF OF A YELLOW SUN Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
MY DEAR I WANTED TO TELL YOU Louisa Young
THE GOLDFINCH Donna Tartt
Ten of my favourite non-fiction books:
WILD Cheryl Strayed
WILD SWANS Jung Chang
WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING Haruki Murakami
INTO THE WILD Jon Krakauer
THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING-UP Marie Kondo
RISING STRONG Brene Brown
THE WISDOM OF YOGA Stephen Cope
START WHERE YOU ARE Pema Chödrön
THE ARTIST’S WAY Julia Cameron
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY Jean-Dominique Bauby