Monday, 7 December 2015

Writers in Fiction

A recent book I read had a writer as one of the main characters and I felt a thrill of delight when I was reading about her. There's something lovely about a writer in fiction, something that makes me want to dash out and emulate them.

This particular writer was Alice Edevane in The Lake House by Kate Morton (which I reviewed as one of my November reads). Sixteen years old, stubborn and rebellious, she carries a leather bound notebook and scribbles her observations, her dreams, her burning desire to write for a living. She's a great character and thanks to her, I found myself yearning for a leather bound notebook. So I dug out my Midori and started carrying that around again!

It made me think about other writers in fiction that I've loved. One of my all-time favourite books, one that I return to over and over again (and one that I should definitely have shared on my Gifts for Readers blog) is I Capture The Castle by Dodi Smith. The opening line, 'I write this sitting in the kitchen sink', has always delighted me and the book itself is like comfort food to me. Cassandra Mortmain, who is writing from the kitchen sink, lives in a castle with her slightly eccentric family. Her father, a great writer struggling to write a follow up to match his great first work; her stepmother Topaz, ex-artist's model with a penchant for dyeing everything in sight; her stunning sister Rose and her genius brother Thomas. Cassandra writes all about them, about their home and habits, about the sudden arrival of two American brothers in the big house nearby (guess where this is going?).

Cassandra's observations of her family made me, as a teenager, wish for a more eccentric family and a castle to live in, but now when I read it, I realise that for Cassandra all that is so normal as to be almost boring. She's writing about it in order to teach herself to write, even about the most mundane of situations. This thought always makes me laugh - everyone's life, no matter how interesting to everyone else, is probably quite mundane to them. I also love that every time she starts a new notebook she describes it. But I am a stationery junkie.

Bryony Tallis, in Atonement by Ian McEwan, is probably one of the more famous fictional writers. (It now occurs to me that both Bryony and Cassandra have been played by Romola Garai in the film adaptations, how funny!) I love the use of the writer as a device in this book, the book itself becoming a confession... I'll say no more for fear of spoilers, but yes, this is another I've read several times. It's wonderful and heartbreaking all at once.

Another very vivid writer was Vida Winter in The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, an enigmatic and not altogether likeable writer at the very heart of the mystery. It's one I may read again actually, as I've completely forgotten what the twist was. In fact, I only remember the character of Vida!

Funny though, isn't it, how writers in fiction become 'characters' - they're never entirely normal. They are always quirky or flamboyant in some way. I find this completely delightful and it makes me want to run out and buy loads of dramatic scarves and write only in longhand in purple ink! Who are your favourite fictional writers and how do they make you feel about being a writer?

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