As an adolescent, I read a particular book which got under my skin and enthralled me. It was a book called The Summer After the Funeral by Jane Gardam.
I read a lot and loved many books and authors, but, for whatever reason, this just settled into me and remained. It’s about a beautiful young girl, obsessed by Emily Bronte, who is packed off to stay with various people and in various strange places the summer after her eccentric father’s death. She encounters men who awaken feelings in her, and who, it seems, are just as enthralled by her as she is by them.
I guess at the time I related to Athene – a vivid imagination rooted in the past; not feeling like she fitted in; falling for older, inappropriate men and hoping they felt something too.
It’s a wonderful book and one that I’d recommend to young adults, girls in particular.
Anyway, I’d lost my copy of it and had never got round to getting another one. I finally remembered to do something about this and downloaded it.
It’s just as good as I remembered it, but the scary thing is that I realise how much it has influenced my own writing. The scenes of dialogue in particular – the glances, leanness of description, way the characters are rendered – are paced very similarly to what I aim for now. I hadn’t seen or opened this book for – what – it must be over 25 years, but I just read it again, open-mouthed at how obviously the style has influenced me.
I find it both comforting but a little scary that something I hadn’t given a second thought to for a quarter of a century has clearly lived with me subconsciously.
Beautiful, witty, touching.