Meg Mason: ‘Jane Austen taught me there really is such a thing as reading for pleasure’

The author on being inspired by Nina Stibbe and taking comfort in the works of Nancy Mitford

My earliest reading memory
My mother reading me Terry Furchgott’s Phoebe and the Hot Water Bottles, when I was four or five. It’s such a cheerily illustrated book, about a little girl whose widowed father leaves her home alone while he’s at work and, one night, the house catches on fire and Phoebe puts it out using hot-water bottle water. Which is to say, picture book-wise, things were quite a bit darker back then. Gosh, I loved it.

My favourite book growing up
Although I was read to endlessly when I was little, once I got to school, I rejected reading absolutely, preferring to draw. Sunshine by Jan Ormerod is the only book I remember going to on my own, maybe because it doesn’t have words, only illustrations of a family rushing to get ready one morning. I was so fascinated by it: the house, the portrayal of the domestic, mothers, fathers, an observing daughter and the intrinsic humour. Which are all my concerns as a novelist, so clearly it did go quite deep.

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