My Top Ten Modern Fiction

Flora’s Lot – Katie Fforde
Katie Fforde is a truly comforting, feel-good author. I was torn between Flora’s Lot, The Rose Revived, and Living Dangerously, but in the end Flora’s Lot won because I love the evocative descriptions of English summertime, and the fact that the very likeable heroine is discovering self-fulfilment through her ideal career as well as meeting her dream man.

Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding
Well, they say this is the original and best of the chick-lit novels, and the eponymous heroine has become shorthand description for an entire generation of single thirty-something women. I read it in my first term at university. I was in bed with flu, and needed something light and accessible to read, but my bookcases contained only the Victorian novels I’d brought for that term’s work. I love them, but not ideal when you’re feeling a bit headachey and feverish. Luckily my friend in the room next door had a copy of Bridget Jones, and I devoured it!

Babyville – Jane Green
I’ve been broody for as long as I can remember, and reading this book aged 21 let me enjoy motherhood second-hand when both my rational self, and, more importantly, my boyfriend, knew I wasn’t ready for it for real. Reading it again six years later when I was pregnant was even more enjoyable, although Sam’s story in the third part of the book did scare me quite a lot at this point.

The Making of Us – Lisa Jewell
A new Lisa Jewell is an eagerly anticipated event for me. I downloaded this novel onto my Kindle on a train journey from Manchester to Penzance a couple of summers ago. The train was severely delayed, and we didn’t get in until midnight, but I couldn’t have cared less because it gave me a chance to read this fabulous book in one sitting with no interruptions.

Atonement – Ian McEwan
Unusually for me I only read this book after having watched the film. As a teenager I loved weepie films and books, but as I’ve got older I find myself less and less emotionally equipped to deal with them. However, even though this film saw me staggering tear-blinded from the cinema onto Clapham High Street, I still found it mesmorising, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book. It didn’t disappoint.

The Friendship Test – Elizabeth Noble (originally published as The Tenko Club)
This was a birthday present from my parents for something like my 22nd or 23rd birthday. I read it curled on the tatty sofa in a shabby little rented flat in Birmingham. It was the first place my boyfriend and I lived in as in independent adults, and reading The Friendship Test with its central theme of the transition from student life to adult life and the choices and decisions that involves really resonated with me at that time. The other themes of friendship and self-determination have continued to interest me when I’ve re-read it since.

I Don’t Know How She Does It – Allison Pearson
I was a childless twenty-something when I first read this book, but the character of Kate Reddy and the writing of Allison Pearson are so compelling that I still completely identified with thirty-something Kate’s struggles to balance work and self and marriage and motherhood. I’ve read it until my copy is falling apart and it’s a book I really wish I’d written. Funny and sad and brilliantly witty.

White Teeth – Zadie Smith
For me this is Middlemarch for the 20th century. I love the three-generation saga of Londoners from all over the world. I read it while inter-railing round Europe the summer I graduated, so it always evokes sundrenched piazzas, smelly toilets and an intoxicating sense of freedom.

The Choir – Joanna Trollope
I’m a huge fan of all Joanna Trollope’s work for her subtle writing and acutely observed characters. The Choir is the first one I read and so has remained my favourite, but it’s a close-run thing.

Little Earthquakes – Jennifer Weiner
Yay, Jennifer Weiner! Just can’t say strongly enough how much I love her books. Warm and wise and witty and life-enhancing. Could not decide whether Little Earthquakes or Certain Girls is my favourite. Still can’t, I had to stick a pin in it in the end. If you haven’t read her already, do!

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