19 Dec What is Margaret James Reading?
Today we are launching an occasional feature on our blog: What Are You Reading? We are inviting a variety of people, with links either to Exeter or to the Literary World, or both, to talk about books that mean a lot to them. And our first guest is Exeter-based author, Margaret James.
What are you reading at the moment? Why would our readers enjoy it?
Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem, which is the story of the tidal Thames from Teddington to the Essex marshes. As a dedicated mudlark, Lara knows the foreshores of the river very well, has found thousands of artefacts washed up along its banks, and her book is both a history of the river and of the people who have lived beside it for thousands of years.
The most memorable book you read in 2020; and why?
Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel. Anyone who loves picture books will enjoy this gorgeously-illustrated series of essays about manuscripts from all over the Western world. The paintings and drawings discussed are all of historical importance, but they also make the point that human beings have had the same feelings, preoccupations, loves, hates and fears since we first waded out of the ocean and on to dry land, all those aeons ago.
A book you return to and reread; and why?
Pride and Prejudice is my go-to comfort read. I sometimes feel I know it off by heart, but whenever I re-read it I always find something new: some little aside I hadn’t noticed before, some particularly engaging turn of phrase, or some tiny flash of wit seasoned with charmingly forgivable spite.
Your favourite book of all time; and why?
Just one? I couldn’t possibly say! My favourite books change from year to year or even from day to day. But some I have loved for most of my life include The Eagle of the Ninth, The Persian Boy, Bleak House and The Lord of the Rings. They’re all wonderful stories and I do love a good story.
Margaret James is the author of sixteen traditionally-published novels and many short stories. She’s also the co-author with Cathie Hartigan of three creative writing guides, including The Creative Writing Student’s Handbook. She is involved in the judging of several literary competitions including the Exeter Story Prize, the Exeter Novel Prize, and the Exeter Literary Festival Short Story Competition. She worked as a tutor for the London School of Journalism for many years, and is a regular contributor to Writing Magazine, for which she writes the monthly Fiction Focus pages and some of the author profiles.