Author Eleanor Catton on the Books That Changed Her
New Zealand Booker Prize-winning novelist Eleanor Catton recently spoke with The Guardian on the crackpot astrological study she’d like to write, and the book she finds “dishonest, pious and vengeful”, for the newspaper’s regular column, ‘Books that made me’.
Catton, 32, who was a speaker at this year’s Queen’s Park Book Festival in London, says Anna Karenina is the book that changed her life.
“[Anna Karenina] totally exploded my sense of what the novel could be and do, not so much formally as emotionally. Sometimes you encounter a book just when you need it most, and Anna Karenina came at just the right time for me,” Catton explains.
She says that the book she wishes she had written “doesn’t exist yet”.
“[It is] a study of the harmonic patterns in classical astrology, part The Golden Bough, part Man and His Symbols, part From Ritual to Romance, part The Art of Memory. I hope I’m not too lazy to attempt it some day.
“I was lucky in my childhood: my mum was a children’s librarian when I was very young, so our house was always filled with books. The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot is a book that sticks in my mind as an early favourite.
“The books that have imprinted themselves on me the most are those I read and reread as a child: Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian; The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi; The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop; A Handful of Time by Kit Pearson; and The Priests of Ferris by Maurice Gee. I can trace pretty much all my literary enthusiasms as an adult to those books.
“I’d love to write a critical work about fiction that focuses on plotting and change, but I wouldn’t want to attempt it until much later in life, I don’t think. I need to read more first.”
At the age of 27, for her novel The Luminaries, Catton became the youngest author ever to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
She lives in Auckland.
Original article by Eleanor Catton, The Guardian, June 22, 2018.