By Jane Austen
Virginia Woolf said of Austen, 'For a great writer, she was the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness,' which is a fantastic line. You're drawn into the story, and you come out the other end, and you know you've seen something great in action. But you can't see the pyrotechnics; there's nothing flashy.
I love all his books. I often talk about him and Jane Austen in the same breath. I think people are slightly mystified by that because superficially they're such different writers. But they both have a very unsentimental approach to human nature. They can be profoundly moving without ever becoming mawkish
I could never write the way Colette did. I've never found anything to match her descriptive passages, ever. She was a very sensual writer, and way beyond her time. Chéri is a love story between a very spoiled young man and his mistress who has "been there, done that." He's self-centered and vicious, and she ultimately turns out to be very noble. The final scene is incredibly moving; it makes me cry. I absolutely bow to Colette, but I think if she could hear me, she would probably tell me where to get lost, because she was that kind of woman.
The Little White Horse
By Elizabeth Goudge
Goudge was the only one whose influence I was conscious of. She always described exactly what the children were eating, and I really liked knowing what they had in their sandwiches.
The Story of the Treasure Seekers
By E. Nesbit
She's the children's writer with whom I most identify. She said, 'By some lucky chance, I remember exactly how I felt and thought at 11.' That struck a chord with me. The Story of the Treasure Seekers was a breakthrough children's book. Oswald is such a very real narrator, at a time when most people were writing morality plays for children.
By David Almond
It's the best children's book I have read recently.