Interview with Beth Miller
What book inspired your love of reading as a child?
Awkward Magic by Elizabeth Beresford. I still love it and re-read it every couple of years. Elizabeth Beresford also wrote The Wombles books, which are great, but Awkward Magic is a masterpiece. The characters, the atmosphere, the humour, the emotion, the tension, the inevitable-yet-surprising ending… it’s perfect. I think it’s always there, in everything I write; I’m always trying but failing to recreate the astonishing way she builds up to the climax.
What book took your breath away?
The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley. It’s a brilliant book, but it surpasses even its own high standards in the final chapter. When I first read it in my teens, I was literally breathless for a while. I ran and told my dad I’d finished it – he’d already read it – and he said, ‘and wasn’t that bit at the end astonishing…’ and he was referring to the exact same part that had made me breathless.
What book made you laugh out loud?
I prefer funny books to anything, so this was a hard one to pin down. PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves books always make me laugh, and so do Bill Bryson’s travel books – I have been helpless with laughter sometimes reading Notes from a Small Island. The audiobooks of Mr Gum read by their author, Andy Stanton, have my whole family in hysterics. Howard Jacobson’s Roots Schmoots for the Catskills section alone. But if I had to choose just one it would be Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams. It’s just so exactly my sense of humour.
What book made you shout at its pages?
I can’t think of a specific example, but sometimes when reading thrillers I get a bit cross when the character does something so obviously foolish and dangerous that you know how it will end. ‘NO! Don’t go in there! Haven’t you ever watched Dr Who or Scooby-Doo?’ I might yell, pointlessly.
What book made you cry real tears?
I recently read Tom’s Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce) out loud to my son, and I couldn’t read the last few pages for sobbing – I could barely see the words. Mind you, he was sobbing too. It was a very satisfying experience. The same thing happens with The Diddakoi ( Rumer Godden) and Little Women (Louisa May Alcott). It’s not just children’s books, and it’s not just fiction: pretty much half the essays in Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage make me weep, even the one where she opens a bookshop, which you wouldn’t think would be particularly emotive.
What book has stayed with you always?
Laurie Colwin’s Another Marvelous Thing. The characters are completely real to me, and I sometimes think about them and wonder what they’re doing.
What book taught you the most?
Two books that are primarily about sex: Wifey by Judy Bloom, and My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl. They taught me a lot about American life and family relationships (Wifey), and famous men of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Oswald), and they’re both very funny and well-plotted. But yeah, I learned a lot about sex from them, mainly.
- What book would you give to a stranger?
The book I have most often given as a present is Nora Ephron’s Heartburn. It’s funny, poignant, emotionally truthful, subtly plotted and enchantingly brief. It also contains a recipe for mashed potato and the greatest pie-throwing scene I have ever read.
The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom
How do you choose between your family and the love of your life?
Eliza Bloom grew up in a big, loud Jewish family with delicious Friday night dinners, Sunday mornings with her grandfather and finding ways to annoy her father. But this close-knit life has limits: no short skirts, no television and no marrying outside of the faith. And Eliza has always strained against the rules…
When Eliza meets Alex, her heart skips a beat. He isn’t Jewish, he lives in the wrong side of town, he has an enchanting smile… and he offers her a way out. So, Eliza takes a huge leap into the ‘Real World’ where there are new foods to try, movies to watch and someone who really loves her.
But as time passes, Eliza desperately misses her grandfather, her family, and her old life. When her grandfather falls ill, Eliza returns home to see him and starts keeping secrets from Alex. But she can’t live two lives forever…
An uplifting and heartbreaking novel about finding yourself, perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes, The Hideaway and P.S. I Love You.
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