Today I am joined by historical fiction writer Jennifer Wilson, and there is a definite theme amongst her choices for her top five go-to reads!
Hi Rosie, and thanks for the chance to visit your blog today; it’s been lovely thinking about my five comfort reads, bringing back some great memories too!
The Animals of Mulberry Common, by Hilary Cannock
I know this isn’t the first book I ever read (Puddle Lane or fairy tales probably count somewhere for that), but this book has come with me everywhere I’ve ever lived for some reason. I just cannot let it go. It’s a tiny, pocket-sized book, about, unsurprisingly, the animals which live on the fictional Mulberry Common, and has plenty of action and adventure, as well as a hint of danger in some of the stories. But then, books for children often do have underlying danger, just look at what could happen to Peter Rabbit if Mr McGregor ever did catch him, not to mention the death and destruction throughout the Harry Potter series. I haven’t re-read this for a while, but just knowing it still sits happily on my shelf keeps me smiling.
Bloody Scotland, by Terry Deary
As a child, I adored history, and found the Terry Deary books a brilliant way in to learning about periods of history which simply weren’t covered at school. Being obsessed with Scottish History meant that this was an immediate favourite, and I was thrilled to bits when the author came to my school, and I was able to get my copy signed. It’s since been reissued as just a Horrible Histories Special on Scotland, but frankly, I think this title is more fun!
Despite having read this dozens of times, there are still cartoons and lines which make me laugh out loud, and I did refer to it when I was researching Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, so there’s definitely some solid facts in there, as well as the humour.
The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory
I love this book. The writing is brilliant, and I think the fact that Philippa Gregory is able to make you believe (spoiler alert) that Anne Boleyn might just be about to be saved, and sent to a distant convent, and not executed after all. I was given a copy to read by a colleague, despite not being interested in the Tudors at all, because she was convinced I would enjoy it. She was right. I devoured it in a matter of days, and that was it; I was hooked on the Tudors. As a result, I began reading as much fiction and non-fiction as I could (see below), and became absolutely obsessed with the era. Once I’d read a lot about the Tudors, I decided I didn’t want to move ‘forward’ in time, to the Stuarts, and decided to go ‘backwards’ instead, and that’s when I discovered the Plantagenets, and in particular, Richard III.
Whenever I’m sick, or stressed, this is the book I go back to. It doesn’t matter that I know the plot inside out; for some reason, on every re-read, I seem to find something I hadn’t noticed, and still enjoy it as much as the first time. It’s the perfect ‘ill read’, as I can open it at any point, read as much or as little as I like, and put it aside without even worrying about a bookmark for next time.
The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Antonia Fraser
This is one of the books I bought as a result of having read The Other Boleyn Girl, and again, however many times I read it, I find different nuances, or facts, that I go and research further in other places. It was also where I found ‘my’ Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, for Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, due to the stories, quotes and reported words. It’s another ‘ill read’ for me, like The Other Boleyn Girl, and I always enjoy going back to it.
The Story of Scotland, by Nigel Tranter
This is one of those perfect history books, which makes facts read as addictively as fiction, just like The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Scottish history always makes fascinating reading, but it can at times be a little complex, especially when you go back so far that the history itself isn’t 100% certain. The book writes every period as though it was a chapter of a novel, and makes it nice and accessible. I’ve never used this as a resource specifically, but I do enjoy my Scottish history, and have often used it as a ‘jumping off’ point, to then go and read more about a particular person, or part of history.
Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history and historical fiction whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots on childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east of England for work reignited her pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since.
She lives in North Tyneside, and is very proud of her approximately 2-inch view of the North Sea.