|Penelope Lively … the Beatrix Potter titles showed me the arresting use of language. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian|
Penelope Lively: my debt to roasted grasshopper with ladybird sauce
The Booker prizewinner on why Beatrix Potter influenced her writing and how she was defeated by one of the greatest novels of the 20th century
FRIDAY 1 DECEMBER 2017
The book that changed my life
Andrew Lang’s Tales of Troy and Greece. I read it again and again when I was nine, 10, 11 – this is where I learned about story, and drama.
The book I wish I’d written
The Inheritors by William Golding: brilliantly imagined and infinitely sad.
The book that had the greatest influence on my writing
Many. But I have to cite the Beatrix Potter titles, which showed me the arresting use of language: “the dignity and repose of the tea party”; “roasted grasshopper with ladybird sauce”; “the dinner was of eight courses, not much of anything, but truly elegant”.
The last book that made me cry
William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault. An exquisitely paced tragedy.
The most underrated book
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban captures an apocalyptic post-Holocaust world in fragmented language. It was highly regarded when it was published in 1980, but is rather forgotten now.
The book I couldn’t finish
Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. One of the greatest novels of the 20th century, it is said, but I was defeated.