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Angela Young

The Essential Reading List

Angela Young has had two novels published, Speaking of Love and The Dance of Love, and is writing more. She's also had short stories for children published. She lives in SW London with her other half and shelves and shelves and shelves of the fiction she loves.

Books by me

Speaking of Love by Angela Young

Speaking of Love

"This book grew out of my own fear of madness, although, as is the way with novels, I didn't know that when I began writing. The revelation came to me at the same time as it came to my character, Vivie. The novel is special to me because it shows how estranged familiy members can find ways to reconcile, if only they'll say what's in their hearts. If a book group would like to read this novel, it's available as an ebook, but it's out of print. If you'd like print copies, I'd be happy to supply them for the cost of postage. Email me @ angelayoungstories at gmail dot com."

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The Dance of Love by Angela Young

The Dance of Love

"This novel grew from initial research into my great-grandmother's life (1878-1956), and then it diverged. (Novels really do have a life of their own.) My great-grandmother, Noel Rothes, was on board Titanic when it sank, but as I wrote I realised that that story was too huge a story for the more delicate love story I had in mind. The novel is special to me because as I wrote I understood love better, and the difficulties people often have, in the early twentieth century and always, when they're faced with a choice between duty and love. If you decide to read this novel, can I recommend that you read the version published by Joffe Books, not the earlier version."

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Books that influenced me

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

The English Patient

Michael Ondaatje

"This is a wonderful story about an enigmatic survivor of World War Two and those whose lives he touched. When I first read it I had trouble with its lack of chronology. Then I saw the film and when I reread the book it made complete sense. I recommend this combination of engaging with this extraordinary book, and the film. The reason The English Patient influenced me is that Ondaatje shows how it's possible to write a book with a puzzle-like structure that beautifully comes together, as long as you give it time to (which might mean watching the film first and/or re-reading it several times)."

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After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell

After You'd Gone

Maggie O'Farrell

"This is Maggie O'Farrell's first novel and it's a miracle of a first novel. It lacks chronology just like The English Patient, which is why it too has influenced me. But it makes complete sense if you give it time. To quote from its blurb: It's a love story that is also a story of absence, and of how our choices can reverberate through the generations. It slowly draws us closer to a dark secret at a family's heart."

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Small Island by Andrea Levy

Small Island

Andrea Levy

"Small Island is told from several points of view, and that's what influenced me because Levy does several points of view so well. It's set mostly in 1948, and tells the stories of Gilbert and Hortense (first-generation Jamaicans living in England) as they adjust to life in England, after a reception that's not quite the warm embrace they hoped for, and the interracial relationship between Queenie and Michael. The characters are, of course, all connected. There's love and healing here as well as pain and separation."

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Personal favourites

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell


Maggie O'Farrell

"Maggie O'Farrell is a glorious writer and I would recommend anything by her, but Hamnet (and After You'd Gone - recommended earlier) are favourite favourites of mine. I loved Hamnet for its witty treatment of Shakespeare (he's never mentioned by name) and for its poignant story of the death of a young son, the falling apart of his parents' relationship and the healing that finally comes."

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The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

The Island of Missing Trees

Elif Shafak

"This novel is a love story set on the war-torn island of Cyprus, a story of lovers from either side of the conflict. Their love is both possible and impossible because of the war, but a child is born. The Island of Missing Trees is also the story of trees, and one tree in particular: a tree that has a voice throughout the novel and is sometimes extremely funny about the nature of other trees: a tree that heals, a tree that travels and reveals secrets. A beautiful book."

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Still Life by Sarah Winman

Still Life

Sarah Winman

"This is an extraordinary novel set between London and Florence both pre and post World War Two. It's the story of an unlikely friendship between a British soldier and an alleged spy in a wartime Tuscany, but there is a large cast of characters and there's a talking tree (I seem to like talking trees ... ). It's witty and poignant and joyful and sad and full of humanity (and a wise and irritable parrot called Claude)."

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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

"This is a love story between Ifemelu and Obinze who leave Nigeria separately to go to America and England respectively, and who both discover racism for the first time, in their new countries. There is a line in the novel, 'Racism should never have happened, so you don't get a cookie for reducing it' which made me sit up and think. Americanah was one of the first books that got me seriously recognising the damage racism has caused (and still causes) but, because it's a novel, the message subtly insinuates itself as the biases and racist behaviours build up. For instance the distance Ifemelu has to travel to find a hairdresser in America is a horrifying eye-opener to a white person like me, but Adichie doesn't hammer the message home. She lets you work it out for yourself. Read it for a wonderful story beautifully told, and to open your eyes to the appalling biases of racism."

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The Good Ally by Nova Reid

The Good Ally

Nova Reid

"This is also a book that has irrevocably influenced me as well as being a favourite, not in terms of my own writing, but in terms of my own racism. If you read this as a group I highly recommend taking several sessions to discuss it. It's an invaluable guide for white people on how to become a white ally to black people and to understanding our (white people's) racism. It takes courage to read this book and subsequently to take antiracist action, but I urge you to. Nova Reid suggests we learn to become antiracist (and it is always a state of becoming, never an end) by first, Listening (to black people), second by Unlearning (the racism white people have learned), third by Relearning (what racism has done to black people and understanding and undoing ill-informed and incorrect white attitudes) and then and only then, should we take Responsive Action. I ignored this advice at first and went straight to the part of the book that talks about action: but Reid is too wise a guide not to anticipate readers doing this: she writes, in Chapter 11: If you’ve found your way here without reading the rest of the book, I see you. Please don’t undermine antiracism work or the labour it has taken to create this resource by trying to skip ahead. And please don’t underestimate the unintentional harm you will continue to inflict on others by not doing this work properly.' Read this book and begin becoming antiracist."

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