Her Last Promise, the new book from Kathryn Hughes it out now!

Her Last Promise, the new book from Kathryn Hughes it out now!

Get your kindles ready, as Kathryn Hughes is back with an uplifting, gripping and heart wrenching story of how hope can blossom in the ruins of tragedy and of the redeeming power of love.

A mysterious letter from Spain. A surprising new beginning…

Tara Richards was just a girl when she lost her mother. Years later when Tara receives a letter from a London solicitor its contents shake her to the core. Someone has left her a key to a safe deposit box. In the box lies an object that will change everything Tara thought she knew and lead her on a journey to deepest Spain in search of the answers that have haunted her for forty years.

Violet Skye regrets her decision to travel abroad leaving her young daughter behind. As the sun dips below the mountains, she reminds herself she is doing this for their future. Tonight, 4th June 1978, will be the start of a new life for them. This night will indeed change Violet’s destiny, in the most unexpected of ways…

What real readers are saying about Her Last Promise

‘Hope rises from despair and new beginnings are forged in the most extraordinary and unexpected way. Kathryn Hughes delves deeply into the heart and soul of her characters, making them totally relatable…like friends you really care for. My addiction to this novel was total and uncompromising *****’

‘Wonderful! First book I have read by Kathryn Hughes and will now read her previous stories. I loved it *****’

‘Another great story from Kathryn Hughes *****’

‘As always, a lovely story by Kathryn Hughes *****’

‘I really enjoyed this book, especially the nostalgic 1970’s descriptions ****’

And for a limited time only, you can get Kathryn’s new book for just 99p on Kindle! Get your copy of Her Last Promise here.

The Secret's alternative ending

The Secret's alternative ending

Kathryn Hughes’ bestselling novel The Secret is a gripping, heartrending story of how far a mother will go for her child. A huge bestseller in ebook and paperback, The Secret is the second novel from Kathryn, author of Kindle phenomenon The Letter.

If you’ve read The Secret, you’ll be fascinated to discover this unseen material, revealed exclusively to Bookends readers by Kathryn, which shows how she originally intended to end the novel.

Epilogue

Four years later

Jerry reached into his cavernous fridge and pulled out the little bottle of live yoghurt.  He peeled back the foil lid and drained the contents in one go before lining up his vitamins along the counter top.  He picked them up one by one and chugged them down with a glass of water.  He knew it was important these days more than ever to take care of himself and whilst he may not be rippled with muscle, his body was lean and his heart was strong.  His old seventies bicycle might have looked like something the vicar would ride and he’d been subject to plenty of ridicule back then, but it had kept him fit, saved him a fortune on fuel and nurtured a love of cycling that remained to this day.  Living with just one kidney for the past four years had only made him more determined to stay healthy and he was fortunate that the Melbourne climate suited him just fine.  It was seldom unbearably hot or unbearably cold and its reputation for lots of rain was unfounded. Jerry surmised this was just a rumour put about by jealous natives of Brisbane or Sydney.  He called up the stairs to his wife. ‘Are you coming, Lydia?’

         She appeared at the top in a pair of pale grey jogging trousers and a lime green vest top.  She’d piled her hair into a bun stretching the skin around her eyes.  With her toned brown arms on show she looked nowhere near her sixty-two years. ‘I’m just looking for my runners, I’ll be right down.’

          Every morning, at seven, they habitually power-walked the length of the beach, stopping for a cappuccino in the cafe at the end before completing the return leg. Sometimes they would come again in the evening to watch the colony of Little Penguins return home to the St Kilda breakwater at twilight.  Jerry volunteered as a Penguin Guide and was always happy to answer visitors’ questions, although he spent most of his time telling tourists not to use flash photography or shove their selfie sticks into the penguins’ nesting sites.  He’d educated countless children about the colony and had delighted in their enthusiasm but there was still one special little boy he was looking forward to showing the spectacle to; his beloved grandson.

            ‘Lydia, I’ll wait for you outside. I’m just going to do some stretches.’

Lydia bounded down the stairs. ‘I’m here now. Do we really need to do this today? I’ve still got loads to do.’

            ‘I’ll help you and we’ve got plenty of time, they don’t land until this afternoon.’

She stood on tiptoe and kissed him on the cheek. ‘You’re such a creature of habit, Jerry Duggan.’

*

Beth had always been a nervous flyer and this mid-air turbulence was not doing anything to convince her that air travel was the safest mode of transport there is.  She looked at Michael, plugged into the entertainment system, oblivious to the imminent threat to their lives.  She tugged at his sleeve, ‘Michael.’

                He pushed the headphone back from his ear. ‘What?’

            ‘All this bouncing around, do you think we’re safe?’

            ‘Of course, we are.  Aircraft are hardly ever brought down by clear air turbulence.’

            ‘Hardly ever?’

            ‘What I mean is aircraft nowadays are built to sustain these kinds of stresses. We’ll be through it soon, stop worrying.’ He clamped the headphones back onto his ears, leaving her to fret alone.

                She looked at her son then. He was staring unblinkingly at the screen in front of him, hardly able to believe his luck that he was being allowed to watch unlimited television. She gripped the seat as a particularly violent jolt caused the plane to drop but he merely turned and grinned at her. She offered a smile in return that she hoped he would interpret as reassurance.

                 Although they Skyped regularly, Beth had not seen Jerry and Lydia since they’d come over to England last year for Daisy’s funeral.  Even at eighty-eight years of age, Daisy had continued to live alone, fiercely resisting all attempts to shoehorn her into assisted housing.  That’s for old people, she had insisted.  When Michael had found her, sitting in her favourite armchair, knitting still in her lap, he had assumed she was just asleep and nothing had prepared him for the fact she was serenely dead. She might have had a long and largely happy life but this was not much consolation to Michael and the grief had remained etched into his face for weeks afterwards.

            ‘Can I get you anything more to drink?’

             Beth smiled at the pretty young woman leaning over her seat, admiring her flawless skin and doll-like features. Michael had joked that he wanted to fly with Singapore Airlines because they had the most attractive cabin crew and Beth was beginning to think he had a point.

            ‘I could use another gin and tonic, please, a large one.’

            ‘Certainly, madam.’

             Beth settled herself into her seat once more.  Surely if the crew were still allowed to walk around the cabin serving drinks then this turbulence couldn’t be all that serious?  Thank God, they were travelling on a one-way ticket.  She wouldn’t have to face this journey again for a very long time.   She downed the gin and tonic, reclined her seat and tried to sleep.

As the three of them entered the Arrivals Hall, Michael making a valiant effort to keep their overloaded trolley steady, Beth’s eyes scanned the throng of people waiting to greet the passengers, who mostly consisted of bored-looking taxi drivers holding up name placards. It didn’t take her long to spot Jerry and Lydia who were both waving enthusiastically.

            ‘Welcome to Australia,’ beamed Jerry. ‘Did you have a good flight?’  Beth embraced her father, his familiar lemony fresh scent bringing on a rush of affection. She gave him an extra squeeze. ‘A bit bumpy but we came through unscathed.’

              She held his hands at arm’s length and looked him up and down.  ‘You look well, Dad, a bit too trim maybe, I hope you’ve not been overdoing things.’

              Jerry tutted and turned to Lydia. ‘She’s only been here thirty seconds and she’s telling me what to do.’ He pushed her affectionately out of the way. ‘Now, where’s that grandson of mine.’ He spotted him hiding shyly behind the trolley full of cases. ‘My goodness, look how much you’ve grown, I hardly recognised you.’  He held out his hand. ‘Come on then, let’s get you back to our house and we’ll have a nice cool glass of Grandma’s homemade lemonade.’

The yellow and white striped awning shielded the heat of the sun from the patio.  Lydia placed the huge jug of lemonade stuffed with lemon slices and mint on the table and set out the glasses. A cloud of blue smoke wafted over the garden fence.

            ‘That’s Bruce next door, barbecuing his shrimp,’ explained Jerry.

              Michael snorted on his lemonade, the liquid coming out of his nose. ‘Bruce is barbecuing his shrimp?  Please tell me he’s married to Sheila and then we’ll have a hat trick of Australian clichés.’

               Jerry frowned. ‘No, his wife’s called Maisie actually.’

            ‘Michael’s just teasing you Dad,’ Beth explained.

            ‘What…oh, I see, yes, Bruce and Sheila, very funny.’ He rubbed his hands together and scanned the garden. ‘Now where’s that little lad of yours got to?  Oh, here he is now.’  He smiled at his grandson as he wandered onto the patio, staring intently at something in his hands.  ‘What’ve you got there, son?’ asked Jerry.

              He brandished the photo frame towards his grandfather. ‘I found this on the side in there.  It’s my brother.’

             They all fell silent as Jerry took the frame from Ben’s hands and gazed down at Jake’s beaming face.  His school tie was slightly askew but he looked smart in his new blazer. It had been almost four years since Jake passed away and even now Jerry could not look at his photo without his throat tightening or his nose tingling.

            ‘He died when I was still in Mummy’s tummy.’ Ben announced with a nonchalance only a boy of three could muster.

Michael held out his arms. ‘Come here, Ben.’  He pulled his son onto his lap and he immediately nestled into his chest.  Michael stroked his hair. ‘He was a very brave boy, your brother.  A very special boy.’

               Ben pushed his thumb into his mouth and his eyes began to droop as Michael rocked him from side to side. It was a lot to take in for a three-year old who had been born only months after his brother lost his battle. Even though the transplant had been a complete success and Jake had died with a fully functioning kidney, he had been unable to fight off an infection that had ravaged his body. Michael and Beth were both at Jake’s bedside as he closed his eyes for the last time and quietly slipped away.  Their devastation was absolute and had it not been for the new life growing inside her, Beth truly believed she would not have had the strength or the inclination to carry on.   They spoke about Jake all the time though, often spending hours poring over his photographs, watching home videos and reminiscing about his short life, his spirit and how his health problems had reunited an entire family.  That was his legacy and although it was a lot to live up to both Michael and Beth were determined that Ben would not feel he had been born in Jake’s shadow. As far as they were concerned, he had been born in his light.

If you’ve yet to delve into The Secret, read an extract here or read an extract of her bestselling eBook The Letter here.

The books I'll be giving (and the ones I'm hoping to get) this year…

The books I'll be giving (and the ones I'm hoping to get) this year…

We asked a couple more of our authors what books they’ll be dishing out this year, and what ones they’ve popped on their own Christmas lists. Kathryn Hughes plans to put KFC out of business in the New Year by encouraging her son to get Lean in 15 with Joe Wicks, and Rosanna Ley would like some diamonds under the tree please. Sounds reasonable to us…

Rosanna Ley, author of Last Dance in Havana and The Saffron Trail 

The books I’ll be giving are…

  • I Found You by Lisa Jewell. One of my top reads of 2016 (see my website blog) and one of my favourite authors. I’ll be giving this to a close friend who needs to sit down with a nice cup of Rooibos tea, put her feet up and have a good read.
  • The Definitive Guide to Yoga Practice by Iyengar, B. K. S. My daughter’s yoga teacher swears by this volume and in an increasingly stressful world it seems to me that this is a good way in which to care for our minds and bodies.
  • The Tiger Who came to Tea by Judith Kerr. This along with Lion in the Meadow and Where’s Spot are among my favourite books for young children. One of the great things about having a grandson is being able to buy little Tristan books like these. Let’s hope he inherits my love of reading…
  • Interference Effects by Claire Dyer. I don’t know who I’m giving this fabulous poetry collection to – possibly myself.

Under the tree this year I am hoping for…

  • The Mexican type multi-coloured poncho I tried on in Exeter recently which my daughter says makes me look like a drunken cowboy.
  • Another cashmere scarf from Malabar in Bridport which is similar to the one I already own, but actually completely different…
  • Claire Dyer’s Interference Effects.
  • More notebooks.
  • More gel pens.
  • A builder (last year it was a plumber – spot the theme)
  • Diamonds (a girl can only hope!)

Diamonds

Kathryn Hughes, author of The Secret and The Letter 

The books I’ll be giving are…

Arthur by Mikael Lindnord

Who doesn’t love a good dog story?  Someone who has just lost their beloved pet perhaps?

This time last year, just two days before Christmas we had to say goodbye to our gorgeous dog, Teddy.  Plenty of tears were shed that day and on many days since then, but I think my husband, Rob would now be able to appreciate this wonderful uplifting true story of a stray dog in Ecuador who latches onto a team of athletes and refuses to let go.

Hello, is this Planet Earth? By Tim Peake 

Dads are notoriously hard to buy for.  Thank goodness then for this offering from Tim Peake.  My Dad has always been interested in all things astronomical. His default setting when he leaves the house is to look up and point out where the International Space Station is, whether you’re interested or not! 

Joe Wicks – Lean in 15 

My son, Cameron, left home to start his first job a couple of months ago.  He works long hours so I’ll be buying him this book so that he can whip up a delicious, nutritious meal when he gets home.  Expect shares in KFC to plummet as a result.

Kathryn Hughes books

If you liked this post then why not catch up on…

Jo Thomas and Debra Daley share their favourite Christmas memories 

Tracy Rees, Louise Lee and Louise O’Neill reveal what books they’ll be giving this year

Emma Hannigan’s gingerbread cake recipe 

My Perfect Weekend – Kathryn Hughes

My Perfect Weekend – Kathryn Hughes

Long lie in or up with the lark?  Neither!  A short lie in until about 8.30am

Full English or super-food smoothie?  A nearly-full English, but no bread, sausages or black pudding.

City break or escape to the country?  A long walk, preferably coastal, and then a pub with a beer garden, or if its winter, a pub with a roaring log fire.

Bookshop browsing or exploring a library?  Definitely a book shop.  The books smell better.

Re-reading an old favourite or trying something different?  I am an e-reader addict so I’ve always got something different to try.  The only physical books I buy now are cookery books or books with lots of pictures or photos in them.

Cocktails or coffee?  Cocktails!  Does anybody ever say coffee?

Traditional Sunday roast or grand kitchen experiments?  Sunday roast. There would be open revolt in my house if I tried anything else on a Sunday.

Time to write or time to step away from the computer?  I do not enter my office at the weekend, but a notebook is always to hand ready to jot down ideas as they come to me.

Radio 2 or Radio 4?  I’m not a fan of national radio.  I don’t need to know about roadworks on the A339 near Basingstoke.  I stick to Radio Manchester.

A trip to the cinema or a DVD on the sofa?  A DVD on the sofa because I can pause the film and ask my husband what’s going on and there is nobody behind me munching their way through an industrial-sized bucket of popcorn.

You can purchase THE SECRET in eBook or paperback here

Liked this? Why not try 

A Quick-Fire Q&A with Kathryn Hughes

Or

Read a free extract of Kathryn’s best-selling novel THE LETTER here

What Were We Watching In 1976?

What Were We Watching In 1976?

In celebration of the release of Kathryn Hughes’ latest novel The SecretKathryn shares some of the research she carried out while writing.

WHAT WERE WE WATCHING IN 1976?

One of the joyous parts of writing a book is the research.  I know some authors hate this part of the process, but for me a trip down memory lane is a lovely way to while away a few hours all in the name of work.  The Secret is set in 1976, which was of course a long, hot summer.  However, in order to enrich the experience for the reader, I think it is important to consider the other rather mundane aspects of life back then which help to give a real sense of the time period.  What were we eating, drinking, listening to, what did we wear, what did we do for entertainment and of course what were we watching on television?  As there were only three channels back then, the answer is not half as much as we watch today.  Below are just a few of my favourites:-

Crown Court

One of my favourite programmes, it ran to 879 episodes screened from 1972-1984.  It was on at lunchtime so I used to run home from school in my lunch hour, prepare my beans on toast and sit down to this hitherto unsurpassed legal drama.  Although the cases were all fictional, the jury was made up of members of the public and they decided the outcome.  This meant two endings were scripted and rehearsed to allow for the jury’s decision.  I’ve got the distinctive theme tune going around in my head now!

Eurovision Song Contest

Back in 1976 the contest had only been running for 20 years and was compulsory viewing in our house.  First to the stage that year was Brotherhood of Man, representing the UK, who went on to win the competition with Save Your Kisses For Me.  It received the highest score of any winner in the history of the show with 164 points out of 204 and remains one of the most successful winning singles ever.  It even had a little twist in the tale. We all believed the song was about a man having to go away but promising to return to his lover.  But, no, the very last line of the song delivers the twist.  It’s a father talking to his child, who is of course, only three. All together now…Kisses for Me, Save All Your Kisses for Me…

Within These Walls

Before Prisoner Cell Block H and Bad Girls was this little gem.  Set in the fictional women’s prison of HMP Stone Park it centred around the wonderfully-named Googie Withers, in the role of Faye Boswell, the prison governor.  As it aired at 9.00pm I was only allowed to watch it as a special treat.  Unlike the actual prison population who never got chance to see it at all as they’d been locked in their cells thirty minutes earlier.

The Waltons

Who did not want to live on Walton’s Mountain, Virginia and be a part of this huge family?  Everybody was nice to each other, the sun always shone and even though it was set during the Great Depression and WW2, there was little doom and gloom.  There was a magnificent supporting cast of eccentric characters too including the Baldwin sisters who distilled moonshine, innocently calling it ‘Papa’s Recipe and Ike Godsey, proprietor of the general store and his wife Corabeth, who insisted on calling her husband ‘Mr Godsey.’  You can still watch it on one of the more obscure satellite channels and if I do happen to stumble upon it I’m always transported right back to my childhood. In fact, I think I’m going to ‘series-link’ it right now.  Goodnight John-Boy.

Some truly lovely memories for me there then. This is why research is such fun even though it’s so tempting to go off on a tangent. Before I know it a whole afternoon has gone by and I haven’t written a single word.

 

If you liked this, why not read an exclusive, free extract of The Secret 

Or,

Read a Q&A with Kathryn here

How To Get Published, with Bookends and Marie Claire

How To Get Published, with Bookends and Marie Claire

Calling all book lovers and budding authors: ever wistfully thought about having your own book published? We’ve got just the thing that might give you a little push in the right direction. On Tuesday 11th October we’re holding a fabulous rooftop event in partnership with Marie Claire, featuring bestselling authors and editors.

Join Sunday Times bestseller Tasmina Perry, Mike Gayle, Kathryn Hughes and Tracy Rees to hear how they made their dreams a reality. You’ll also get to meet four editors from the Bookends editorial teams: Headline Publishing, Hodder & Stoughton and Quercus. Enjoy a quick-fire panel with the authors and hear a top agent’s tips for finding your own literary agent. There’ll also be a one-hour workshop in smaller groups, each hosted by an editor and author.

There will be drinks and nibbles, as well as the chance to rub shoulders with the Marie Claire team and authors. If that doesn’t entice you, you’ll also receive a goodie bag containing the latest novel from each of the featured authors – The House On Sunset Lake by Tasmina Perry, Florence Grace by Tracy Rees, The Secret by Kathryn Hughes and The Hope Family Calendar by Mike Gayle – plus other Bookends treats.

If this sounds like your perfect kind of evening, purchase your ticket here

 

A Quick-Fire Q&A with Kathryn Hughes

A Quick-Fire Q&A with Kathryn Hughes

Following her bestselling debut novel THE LETTER, we sat down with Kathryn for a quickfire Q&A before the release of her next novel THE SECRET…

The first album I ever bought…The Grease Soundtrack. I was fourteen when the film came out and I knew every word of every song.  In fact, I still do.

The book I’ve read the most times. The Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton.  I could not get enough of Silky, Moonface and Dame Washalot.

My favourite city in the world…Vancouver. It’s where I got married twenty five years ago in the Rose Garden in Stanley Park, with just my husband and two strangers as witnesses.

If I had to choose between appearing on Strictly Come Dancing or X Factor….Although I don’t have a sob story, it would have to be the X Factor because I am tone deaf so that should see me through a few rounds at least.

My most memorable meal…One my husband cooked for me. I knew things had not gone well when he asked me how many slices of gravy I wanted.

If I had to eat the same meal for dinner every day for the rest of my life…well it certainly wouldn’t be the one above! It would have to be lemon, garlic and thyme scented roast chicken with all the trimmings.

The best thing about being a writer…creating characters who become friends and then killing them off when they annoy me.

The book (by another author) that I wish I had writtenMaster of the Game by Sidney Sheldon. An epic book and a masterclass in pure story telling.

The one piece of advice I would give my teenage self…Don’t sweat the small stuff. None of it will matter when you’re grown up.

 The comedian who makes me laugh the most…Jason Manford, because I can relate to his Northern humour and he has not let his success go to his head.

If you’re already desperate to get your hands on THE SECRET, you can purchase the eBook or pre order the paperback here

If you liked this, why not try 

Kathryn’s all time favourite reads 

Or

A free extract of THE SECRET

 

Read a free extract of Kathryn Hughes' new novel THE SECRET

Read a free extract of Kathryn Hughes' new novel THE SECRET

It’s not out in physical format until September but we’re so excited about THE SECRET, that we want to let you in on it now… or a bit of it anyway! Kathryn’s debut novel THE LETTER was a No. 1 eBook bestseller, garnering thousands of glowing reader reviews along the way, so we’re pretty convinced you’re going to devour her this one.

Extract from THE SECRET

If you’re desperate to know the whole story THE SECRET is already available in eBook here and in audio here. You can pre-order the paperback here.

Liked this? Why not catch up on…

… Kathryn’s all-time favourite reads

… Stella Newman’s new look

Kathryn Hughes: It wouldn't be Christmas without…

Kathryn Hughes: It wouldn't be Christmas without…

For author of the Kindle bestseller THE LETTER, Kathryn Hughes, Christmas is a double celebration. With so much to to celebrate, she couldn’t just pick one thing…

It’s almost that time of year again and whether you love it or loathe it, it’s difficult to ignore it.  For me, Christmas is always an extra special time of year because eighteen years ago I gave birth to my daughter on Christmas Eve.  She arrived around tea time, after much pleading from me to the midwife to make sure she was born this side of midnight.  It was only a two-hour labour so my daughter obviously felt the same.  No one wants a birthday on Christmas Day.

We’ve always tried to keep her birthday special, making sure there is a birthday cake, no joint Birthday/Christmas presents and certainly no birthday presents wrapped up in Christmas paper. We’ve always celebrated her birthday on the 24th though; she doesn’t have an ‘official’ birthday in the summer.  It’s just the way it is and she knows no different.

This year will be extra special because she turns eighteen and is looking forward to tasting her first glass of champagne – first legal glass anyway!  For me, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Ellen’s birthday and the two go hand in hand together. Every family has its own foibles and traditions which make Christmas what it is.  So, with that in mind, in the Hughes household, it wouldn’t be Christmas without…

  • The annual hunt for the turkey baster, a curious gadget which is never used at any other time of the year.
  • An argument over who sits on the pouffe at the dinner table, because we’ve run out of chairs.
  • Ginger Ale. Every year my husband insists on buying a bottle in case someone asks for a Whisky and Ginger.  In twenty-three years of marriage, no one ever has
  • Cursing the fairy lights.  Each year they are carefully folded away, wrapped up and stored in a box.  Nobody touches them for twelve months and yet when they come out again, they are all tangled up and half the bulbs don’t work.
  • Rushing out on Christmas Eve to buy the ‘emergency’ present.  This is something to be kept wrapped up but without a gift tag, in case somebody buys me something and I’ve not got them anything.
  • Board games. We’re a competitive family so even a quiet game of Monopoly can result in mayhem.
  • Brag. Three-card or Seven-card, as long as it’s for money, nobody cares.
  • The kids asking to ‘borrow’ some money they can bet with in the aforementioned card games. Needless to say I never see it again.
  • Asking my husband fourteen times to open the red wine to let it breathe.
  • Egg Nog.  Actually, I’m joking.  I’ve no idea what this is, I just like saying it!

Kathryn Hughes debut novel THE LETTER is available in paperback and ebook now.

Liked this? Catch up on…

…some of our other author’s festive traditions

…the gifts Emma Hannigan, Katie Marsh and Nicola Doherty would like to find under the tree this year

Kathryn Hughes shares her favourite books

Kathryn Hughes shares her favourite books

How can I choose my favourite books, you may ask?   It is quite simple — every single one of these titles is still on my bookcase many years after I first read them.   I enjoyed these books so much that I have been unable to part with my copy.   Some of them have a sticker on the cover with my name on which means I have loaned them to friends but with a request that they are returned to me!   I’ve listed the titles in roughly the order I read them. If you’ve not yet discovered these wonderful books, I hope you will enjoy them too…

THE FOLK OF THE FARAWAY TREE  by Enid Blyton

If you had asked me as a young girl what my favourite book was, I would have had no hesitation in naming this one.   I read it dozens of times throughout my childhood and never tired of the adventures of Moon Face, Silky and Dame Washalot.   I was captivated by the ever-changing lands at the top of the tree and marvelled at the imagination of the author who was so adept at holding my attention.

ANIMAL FARM  by George Orwell

Can anybody really have just one favourite book?   I don’t think so but if I was forced to choose then this would be this one.   I was required to read it at school for O Level and our teacher would stand at the front and lead us all in a rendition of Beasts of England before the lesson began.   Boxer the horse is a tragic character and he even gets a mention in THE LETTER, when Jackie names his horse after him.   A political satire it may be, but it’s also a very entertaining yarn to be enjoyed on many levels.

KANE AND ABEL by Jeffrey Archer

There’s no doubt in my mind that Jeffrey Archer is a great storyteller and for me this is quite simply his best work.   I admit I read it years ago but I think it has stood the test of time and remains one of my favourites to this day.

MASTER OF THE GAME  by Sidney Sheldon

As a teenager I simply devoured all of Sidney Sheldon’s books.   I must have read all his early work dozens of times each.   It was as though no other author existed.   It was extremely hard for me to pick a favourite but I settled on this one.   It is a wonderful family saga spanning six generations with complex, not always likeable characters, but ones you nevertheless care about.   I absolutely love this book.

WILD SWANS  by Jung Chang

This is the only non-fiction book in my list and it is quite a tome.   It is an epic tale of three generations of Jung Chang’s family in China, which is both educational and thoroughly riveting. At nearly 680 pages it requires a huge investment of time but it is well worth it.

THE HORSE WHISPERER  by Nicholas Evans

From its breathlessly exciting opening to its shocking climax, this novel held me spellbound throughout.   The depiction of the Montana vista made we want to visit that State, the relationship Tom has with his horses made me want to own one, and the superbly crafted prose and evocative descriptions made me want to write a book.   Well, two out of three is not too bad.   I have yet to own a horse!

LIFE OF PI  by Yann Martel

This is a novel that requires more than one read but that is no bad thing as you get to enjoy the superb writing skills of the author for a second time.   Like ANIMAL FARM, it is also an allegory and you can choose what to believe — the animal story or the human story.   The writing is first-class and for me, well deserving of the Booker Prize it was awarded.

THE GIRLS  by Lori Lansens

This book tells the story of Siamese twins Rose and Ruby, who are joined at the head.   It reads like an autobiography rather than a work of fiction and this is down to the author’s remarkable ability to perfectly capture what it feels like to be a conjoined twin. It’s a truly heart-warming tale that I could not get out of my head for many weeks afterwards.

A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS  by Khaled Hosseini

I was worried that Khaled Hosseini would not be able to live up to THE KITE RUNNER  with his second book, but I think this one is even better. The story of Mariam, who is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul and forced to marry a man who is thirty years her senior, is by turns horrific, compulsive and ultimately uplifting.

THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE  by Heather Gudenkauf

This story of the disappearance of two little girls is told from multiple viewpoints over a sixteen hour period.   I was hooked from the very first page and the tightly wound plot makes sure you keep turning the pages until it reaches its staggering climax.   It is a very accomplished debut.

Kathryn Hughes debut THE LETTER is out now in paperback.

Liked this? Why not try…

Our free extract from THE LETTER

Emylia Hall’s books on my bedside table