The Land of Green Plums
By Herta Müller

This is an extraordinary book about oppression and the impact of that oppression on the friendships of a group of young people. The novel is set in Romania, where Müller is from, at the height of Ceausescu’s reign of terror. The narrator, unnamed, and her friends – Lola, Georg, Kurt and Tereza – escape the claustrophobic impact of that totalitarian regime on their young lives in the countryside, only to find it replicated in the city where they live as students and teachers. The group falls apart under the strain of living within that oppressive framework and the novel tracks the growth of their uncertainties, mistrust and betrayals. It’s a stunning piece for which Müller, a Nobel Prize winner, won the Dublin Literary Award.

Moderato Cantabile
By Marguerite Duras

This book blew my mind when I met it first as a sixteen-year-old. I adored the space around the writing, around the characters. I adored how Duras allowed the reader a role in the creation of her characters and narrative, so unlike the Dickens and Austen of my school English curriculum. I still have the original book, my younger handwriting across all the pages that tell the story of Anne Desbaresdes, the bored wife of a wealthy industrialist. While her son is having his weekly piano lesson, she hears the cries of a woman being murdered. Anne is drawn again and again to the scene of the crime passionnel, her fascination and obsession binding her ever more deeply to Chauvin, a worker in her husband’s factory.

It may not be the best of Duras’s works, but it still resonates for me.

Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them
Edited by Cristanne Miller

I can’t claim to have read every word of this rather large collection of poems, but I love this book. I am so grateful to the editor, Cristanne Miller, for recreating Dickinson’s poems as she wrote them, stripped of other people’s interpretations of the poet’s work, of what it was they think the poet was trying to say – in this work Dickinson is saying it as Dickinson wanted to say it. The poems are presented, too, as Dickinson gathered them, most of them in the forty fascicles, though those not in fascicles are presented as ‘Unbound Sheets’, ‘Loose Poems’, ‘Poems Transcribed By Others’ and ‘Poems Not Retained’. This is a book that always sits on my desk.

The Rose Garden
By Maeve Brennan

There but for the grace of the gods . . . this is a reminder over and over of how hard it has been to be a woman writer, a woman artist. The precision and poignancy of Brennan’s work is extraordinary as she blends America and Ireland in her own unique, razor-sharp style. I carry her with me to remind myself of my good fortune to live now, with the support I have that allows me to write, to think, to read. To remind me to work harder for we stand on the shoulders of women like her.

Le Pays des Autres
By Leïla Slimani

I love this book – The Country of Others in English. It’s a story of Morocco and France, of two cultures bound, entangled, ensnared by love, marriage, children, by colonisation, by war, and by the battle for independence – of a country and of a woman. The story is of Mathilde, a French woman who falls in love with Amine Belhaj, a Moroccan soldier fighting with the French during the Second World War. When the war ends, she returns with him to Morocco, to farm the dry, stony soil inherited from his father, their relationship and sense of belonging challenged and threatened by the demands of the Moroccan independence movement pulsing through this beautifully written piece.

Buy the Book
Audrey Magee

‘A vivid and memorable book about art, land and language, love and sev, youth and age. Big ideas tread lightly through Audrey Magee’s strong prose.’ Sarah Moss