Claire Tomalin’s favorite fictional heroine? It must be Natasha in ‘War and Peace’

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Biography is difficult, it is probably best to organize it by subject. I also have a section for feminist books. And a shelf of precious original editions. It is impossible to have a completely logical and clear system. Art books are of course separate.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I don’t think I have anything surprising on my shelves.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?

The best book I have ever received is the first: “The Tale of Tom Kitten” by Beatrix Potter, which was given to me by the nurse who treated me in the hospital when I was almost 5 years old. years, I think. It’s a good book.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite anti-hero or villain?

My favorite heroine has to be Natasha in “War and Peace” – joined of course by Emma, ​​Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, Marianne – well, enough is enough. We all love heroines who don’t always behave well.

Among the rascals, I like Thomas Mann’s Felix Krull. Heathcliff, of course.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors mean the most to you?

I read everything I could get my hands on as a kid (that was during WWII). I was reading Anna Sewell’s “Black Beauty” when war broke out and immediately worried about the horses. “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre”, of course. I read “Sans Famille” by Hector Malot, a great French novel about a single child, published in 1878. Poetry: Ronsard, Yeats, Tennyson, Shakespeare (my dear mother gave me a complete Shakespeare for my 11th birthday , with the poems as well as the plays – and I have read and read it).

How have your reading tastes changed over time?

I don’t think my literary tastes have changed much over time. It’s always a pleasure to find a good new book to read. I read history and also current politics now.

What do you plan to read next?

My husband, Michael Frayn, is finishing a book and I hope to read the typed text next.


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