Books that changed my life: Fay Henson

Fay and her husband - originally from the south west of England - made the now or never decision to move to Italy with their three children and it was here that Fay was inspired to write her debut book Tuscany – a novel, a romance set in the pretty small city of Siena with a seventeen-year-old girl as the protagonist.  Published by The Conrad Press, Canterbury.  

I’m not entirely sure if it was my father’s books or his bookshelves which inspired me the most.  Of course, over the years I have read countless books of varying genres, but I’d like to share with you some memories I have of my father’s bookshelves.

I remember I was really very young when I found myself being drawn to the tall and narrow piece of furniture in dark oak which stood in the opposite corner of our lounge facing the glass panelled door you entered through. I certainly was very young, as I recall my parents horror when they discovered my passion to practice writing my name in coloured crayon inside the book’s sleeves.  There were around six or seven packed shelves and each one allowed ten or so books, depending on height and width.  I was always rearranging them, either by outer sleeve colours, paperbacks, hardbacks or by height.   At that time, non-fiction didn’t always grab my attention apart from an ornately decorated set of encyclopedias.  I’d stand on our dark pink velvet topped foot stool if I couldn’t reach, or I’d sit and leaf through the pages, curious about the different print formats used and looking at the picture inserts. Two of the many books I remember being on Dad’s shelves were:

The Day of the Triffids – by John Wyndham (1958 Penguin).  

The front cover image used to give me the creeps as I wondered what on earth that grotesque ‘thing’ was.  Since then, I have watched the 1981 TV series as well as the 1962 film, both eerie with those weird, gurgling man-eating plants.  I believe this is one of those science fiction stories you never forget.

Cider with Rosie – by Laurie Lee (1959 paperback)

I didn’t know anything about the story until later years, so I used to invent my own story going by the super illustrations within the pages sketched by John Stanton Ward.

Of course I liked to add my books to my dad’s shelves too, here’s a couple:

Just So Stories – by Rudyard Kipling

This was a gift I remember, but as I couldn’t yet read so well, the strange pictures constantly fascinated me.  

Sleeping Beauty - Ladybird edition 

One of my all-time favourite books as a child. I loved the romantic ending to this story, and the image of the prince who beat at the rose thorns which tore at his skin as he climbed the castle in search for the princess.