|photo: Colin Thomas
Prue Leith is a food and cookbook writer, TV pundit and novelist. She was born in South Africa and lives in London. Her latest is A Serving of Scandal (Opus Books, August 26, 2013), about a Home Secretary's alleged affair with the Downing Street cook--political scandal meets gastro-novel. A Serving of Scandal is the first of three Prue Leith novels to inaugurate the Opus Culinary Fiction Series.
On your nightstand now:
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and Rod Bradbury--a gentle, funny, mad tale. The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk--history of the power struggle between Russia and England for the trade routes to the riches of India. Fascinating tale of the bravery of young men and the duplicity of politicians. After Mandela by Alec Russell--fascinating subject, lucidly and intelligently dealt with by the Financial Times political writer. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Finding this unreadable but still at my bedside because everyone says it is brilliant. Onion Skin by Craig Raine, an early collection by one of England's best contemporary poets.
Favorite book when you were a child:
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara. The only books I read until I was 16 were about horses.
Your top five authors:
Julian Barnes: the latest, Levels of Life, like the Booker Prize one, The Sense of an Ending, is disappointingly short, but the others are great, the nonfiction mostly big, meaty, satisfying, and the novels engaging and true. Anthony Trollope: the best of the Victorian family blockbuster novelists. Elizabeth Jane Howard: perfect chronicles of English middle-class life, and a riveting autobiography, Slipstream. Angela Huth: absorbing novels of life and love with believable backgrounds. Hilary Mantel: especially Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. Can't wait for the next one.
Book you've faked reading:
Everything by Salman Rushdie. I have tried, but never got further than chapter two, so faking is a must.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman--a tiny collection of essays about reading books.
Book you bought for the cover:
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier in paperback. Lovely soft painting of mountainous landscape, mysterious, romantic, distant.
Book that changed your life:
The Warden by Anthony Trollope. Got me into sustained reading for pleasure, rather than to pass exams.
Favorite line from a book:
From Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: "I'll think about that tomorrow in Tara." It demonstrates Scarlett O'Hara's indomitable, ultimately admirable, resilience.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Except that I know I'd not relive that emotional obsession with a horse.
Books that inspired you to write:
Trollope's Palliser novels. I remember thinking if a man working in the postal service can get inside his female characters and write like an angel, then maybe a cook should have a go.