Sara trained at CSSD and was an actor for many years before changing career in her fifties to become a lecturer in Early Years and education. She currently works for Beanstalk, a children’s reading charity, training volunteers to turn children who struggle with reading into passionate bookworms.
Here are her fantastic five:
I paid 3d for this at the village fete when I was 7. I have read it dozens of times. Who did I want to be? It was either Posy, because she danced so brilliantly, or Pauline because she was beautiful and got to do theatre and eventually the movies. Nowadays I fully appreciate the efforts Narnie made to hold the family together, but I don’t want to be her. Maybe I could be Petrova and fly planes; maybe I should read it again and find out.
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
This was the first of her novels that I read, tempted by the statement that she was “underrated” and “neglected”. She works on a very small canvas: mid C20 Middle England, academia, the church, awkward romances. It’s a safe, Pinewood Studios world, but not without depth and wit. I have laughed out loud at some moments and characters.
I had an occasional email correspondence with Nigel Slater before he got swallowed up by Twitter. I once told him that I read this book of his from cover to cover, as though it was a novel, and he was delighted. It is almost twenty years old now, and he will admit that food tastes and fashions move on, but he consistently reeks of warmth and pleasure and variety. Keeping Smarties in the basic store cupboard is just one of his strokes of genius.
Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker
A dear friend sent me this. It is bizarre, surreal and enchanting. The protagonists set up a situation for a joke and then tie themselves in knots trying to justify and then reverse it. The suspension of disbelief is key here. I believe in Miss Hargreaves, but like Norman and Henry, I don’t have any rationale. Enormous fun.
The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
I loved this book so much when I first read it that I saved reading it again for a time when I could pay it fullest attention. It is very romantic, so brilliantly evocative and so clean and spare in style. I send copies to people all the time, sharing the joy.