Catherine Alliott is the Sunday Times Bestselling author of over fifteen novels including About Last Night, A Rural Affair and My Husband Next Door. Catherine started her first novel under the desk when she worked as an advertising copywriter. She was duly fired. With time on her hands, she persevered with the novels, which happily flourished. In the early days she produced a baby with each book, but after three stuck to the writing as it was less painful. She writes with the nearest pen in exercise books, either in the garden or on the sofa. Home is a rural spot on the Herts/Bucks border which she shares with her family and a menagerie of horses, sheep, chickens and dogs, which at the last count totalled eighty-seven beating hearts, including her husband. Some of her household have walk-on parts in her novels, but only the chickens would probably recognize themselves. Her latest novel, A Cornish Summer, has just launched.
We asked Catherine to pick her favourite all-time summer reads...
- There is something immensely satisfying about lying on a hot sunny beach and reading about people on hot sunny beaches - a double dose of rays I suppose. For that reason, I often re-read Bonjour Tristesse by Francois Sagan in the summer. Written by and about a teenager on holiday in the South of France, you can almost smell the pine needles and feel the sand between your toes as Cecile winds lazily through the trees on her way to the beach, where, dazed by the sun, she meets her first love. This coming of age story takes me back to a time when summers were long and endless and I thought I knew everything, and of course, knew nothing. As Cecile delves ever more precariously into her playboy father's love life, her manipulations take a tragic turn. It's short - can be read prone on a towel in a day - beautifully written and intensely moving.
- Another hot weather favourite is Tender is The Night by Scott Fitzgerald. Set on the Riviera which the smart set discovered in the 20's and turned into their personal playground, it's glamorous, languid and hedonistic. Dick and Nicole Diver, a beautiful power couple at the centre of their set, are a magnet for the young starlet Rosemary Hyat, who finds herself under an adjacent parasol. It's people watching at it's very best because as she watches, we do too. When Dick becomes entangled with Rosemary, the already delicate fabric of his marriage shatters, the lustre of his life tarnishes, and many dark secrets are revealed. Fitzgerald's own tragic relationship with his wife Zelda is never far from the surface making this novel all the more fascinating.
- If, however, you are not on the Riviera, or even a sandy beach, but are sheltering in a damp cave in Cornwall, then Rebecca is the one for you. You'll forget the wet coastline and concentrate instead on the storyline, which is famous, but worth retelling. Very new bride Mrs De Winter, shy, tremulous and uncertain, is ready to embark on married life with her dashing widower Maxime and is finally alone with him at his Cornish mansion, Manderley. Except, of course, she's not alone: there's the terrifying housekeeper Mrs Danvers, and perhaps even more terrifying, Maxime's first wife, Rebecca...If you've never read it you're in for a gripper, and if you've read it six times, it won't matter a jot. The evocative Cornish scenery, the hidden coves, the crashing surf, will remind you that you are in the best place on earth and were right not to do battle with EasyJet, and by the time you finally glance through the cafe window - the sun will have come out.
Catherine’s new novel, A Cornish Summer, is available to buy now.