Books that changed my life: Kit De Waal

Reader's Digest Editors 29 January 2020

Birmingham-born short story writer and novelist Kit de Waal first wowed readers with her debut novel, My Name Is Leon, in 2016

The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett

Arnold Bennett wrote this book after seeing an old woman eating alone in a restaurant and wondering what she might have been like as a girl. It’s a study of womanhood at the turn of the last century, a study of loneliness and the love and rivalry between two sisters. It’s tender and savage at the same time and as well as being a great novel in its own right it pointed me towards Gustave Flaubert and Guy de Maupassant. They were friends of Bennett’s and they also wrote sympathetically about women who were struggling against the expectations of society.


The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison was inspired by a scene in Moby Dick where a sailor goes into a black church in New England. In The Invisible Man, the narrator explores what it is to be black, the complexity of relationships with white people, the place of the Black Liberation movement in different communities, the strength of black women and the obstructions put in the way of the advancement of black men, particularly in America in the 1950s. There’s a wonderful story at the heart of it but unfortunately it’s also a reality for many people today.


The First Bad Man by Miranda July

This isn’t the sort of book I’d normally read but it was pressed on me by a friend. It all takes place in the head of a single woman who imagines a fabulous life for herself, because the reality is so sad. She uses a single plate, a single fork and has imaginary lovers. Then in walks a lodger—lazy, rough and manipulative. What follows is a hilarious, sexy power struggle and love affair. It’s not for everyone but it’s definitely for me—it’s absurd, but uplifting.

Kit’s new novel, Becoming Dinah is published by Hachette Children’s, £7.99


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