A native of the Scottish Highlands, Margot Livesey‘s thoughtful fiction showcases a keen wit and a wise heart. Her forthcoming novel, The House on Fortune Street, explores multiple perspectives on the life of a young London therapist while paying subtle homage to literary figures and works including Jane Eyre and Great Expectations. One of many critically acclaimed authors who will be appearing at the Parkway Central Library during the second annual Philadelphia Book Festival on Saturday and Sunday, May 17 and 18, 2008, Ms. Livesey recently took a moment to chat with us about some of our favorite topics.
What role have libraries played in your life?
A crucial one. I grew up in a place called Glenalmond--the valley of the River Almond--on the edge of the Scottish Highlands. The nearest town was ten miles away. From the age of seven I had a library card and when we went to town, perhaps once or twice a month, I would get out the maximum number of books allowed. At that time I could easily read a book a day. Later, at my secondary school, there was also a library from which I could borrow books but also enjoy the pleasure of reading amongst the stacks. And then in the libraries there were also librarians--understanding adults who seemed to think my longing for books was perfectly natural and who often guided me towards surprising and wonderful new authors. As an adult I seldom leave home without my library card and am even more seldom without a book.
What was your favorite childhood book?
I loved Daddy Long-Legs, Pippi Longstocking, and Ferdinand the Bull. I also adored the much more Scottish Kidnapped.
Who is your favorite fictional character?
The hero of the first book I ever read was Percy the Bad Chick, and I remain devoted to him. Also, and always, Jane Eyre.
Who are the three authors you think everyone should be required to read--which books would you start with?
This is such a hard question, and in order to attempt an answer I'm going to limit myself to dead British writers. George Eliot and Middlemarch. Ford Madox Ford and Parade's End. Elizabeth Bowen and The House in Paris.
If you couldn’t write, what other job would you like to have?
I've always envied and admired people who work for organisations like Oxfam or Amnesty. If that didn't work out I'd love to work in a florist’s.