Dame Vera Lynn: Books that changed my life

Caroline Hutton

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

It’s rather astonishing to think that I read this marvellous novel when it was first published in 1934. Christie was a master of her craft and she introduced me to the detective genre, which I’ve enjoyed ever since. I was swept away by the glamour of travel on the Orient Express and couldn’t help but think how wonderful it would be to visit far-flung places. During the war, I went to sing to our troops in Egypt and India and spent four months in Burma. There weren’t any luxuries there— you just had make the best of what you were given.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

I used to read this to my daughter Ginny when she was about five years old. The war was over by then, the country was rebuilding itself and my husband Harry and I were enjoying living the quiet life. I’d sit with Ginny in our little regency sitting room at the front of our house in Finchley and we’d lose ourselves in the peace and tranquillity of Grahame’s Thames Valley countryside.

The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn by Colin Dexter

Colin Dexter left a great legacy of books, which I’m very grateful for. Inspector Morse’s irreverence makes me chuckle, but it’s the plots that really intrigue me. Detective novels force you to think hard; puzzling things out is something I really enjoy. It’s a bit like doing my knitting—if I go wrong I have to work backwards to figure out what happened! Luckily my eyesight is extremely good and, even though I’m soon to be 101 years old, I still read prolifically.

Dame Vera Lynn became known as “the Forces’ Sweetheart” for her morale-boosting visits to sing to the allied troops. Her new book, Keep Smiling Through, is out now.