SC Skillman
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Which authors have influenced you?

I have loved many books in my life, but the ones that stand out for me all seem to have three ingredients: archetypal themes, emotional charge and X factor.

Some have the power to shock and electrify the reader: authors such as Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene and Shusaku Endo. Others have characters that haunt you through the years: Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester, Cathy and Heathcliffe, Lizzy Bennett and Darcy, Pip and Estella; perhaps Bathsheba from Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd  or Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, or Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray; or the master-criminal Count Fosco in Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, or maybe Dorothea in George Eliot’s Middlemarch or Nicholas Darrow in Susan Howatch’s Mystical Paths.

And I also favour authors who are witty, perceptive and brilliantly funny – like P.G. Wodehouse, Tom Sharpe, David Lodge, Jerome K. Jerome, Dodie Smith, Stella Gibbons and Jilly Cooper. I respond to authors whose work shows warmth and compassion, such as Katie Fforde and Joanna Trollope, or those who sail to the furthest reaches of the human psyche, such as Iris Murdoch or Susan Howatch. And among my most-loved books are those which tell of a small person harnessing the power of loyalty, friendship and love to overcome great odds – JK. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, or C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I have marveled, too, at the imaginative fireworks in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy

Finally, as a postscript to this, I remember a line from Virginia Woolf’s essay How Should One Read a Book? “I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgement dawns...The Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when he sees us coming with our books under our arms, ‘Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.’”