Polly Crosby: Books that changed my life

The breakout author of The Illustrated Child shares the books that made her

Bambi by Felix Salten

My mum read this to me before I could read, and later I read it to myself again and again. In the Suffolk countryside where I grew up, I would often spot deer in the fields. This book made me stop and study the animal tracks on the ground and made me think about the world around me in a different way.

The novel is nothing like the sickly animated movie that came later. It doesn’t turn the deer into caricatures, rather, it gives nature a voice, letting us in on the mysteries of its beautiful, secretive world, where even the leaves have something to say.

Rings of Saturn by W G Sebald 

I read this relatively recently when I was doing research for my novel, The Unravelling. Reading it feels a little like sitting by the fire in a pub on a cold night, a pint of bitter in your hand, listening to one of the locals telling fascinating stories. 

At face value, the book is a written and photographic record of a journey across East Anglia. But within each nook and cranny, you discover other stories, a hidden history of the world you thought you knew, where folklore young and old meanders like a stream. Reading it made the landscape I have known all my life transform before my eyes.

Waterland by Graham Swift

I’ve read this book every couple of years since I studied it for English A Level. It is a novel about the intrinsic link between people and the land.

Each chapter is a story in itself, a peculiar fairytale love letter to the Fens, embalmed by river water and reeds and marshland so real that you can smell it and taste it on your tongue. At 16 years old, it was the first novel I read that made me see the landscape as a character in its own right, and it was ultimately the novel that made me want to become a writer.

Known for The Illustrated Child and The Book of Hidden Wonders, British crime and thriller writer Polly Crosby’s new novel, The Unravelling, is published on January 6 by HQ, HarperCollins

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