Sara Baume’s work includes novels Spill Simmer Falter Wither and A Line Made by Walking, and her 2020 bestselling non-fiction title handiwork. She lives in west Cork. Seven Steeples is published by Tramp Press on Thursday.
The books by your bedside?
At the moment I’ve got the spring issue of the Dublin Review, the new novel by Niamh Campbell, We Were Young, and two memoirs, John Connell’s forthcoming The Stream of Everything and Thin Places by Kerri ní Dochartaigh, which I’m rereading for a public event.
Your book of the year so far?
Going on the last 12 months, it would be a toss-up between Gavin McCrea’s The Sisters Mao and Caitríona Lally’s Wunderland – both second novels by brilliant Irish authors, but otherwise madly different.
Your favourite literary character?
Voss from Patrick White’s 1957 novel of the same title. Johann Ulrich Voss is a German explorer who sets out with a travelling party in 1845 to cross the Australian continent. He is a Jesus-like figure, blind to the prospect of failure even as the endless, gruelling terrain starts to eat them up. Voss the character was apparently based on the Prussian explorer and naturalist, Ludwig Leichhardt, who disappeared in the Australian outback in 1848. Voss the novel is one of the darkest and most wonderful books I have ever read.
The first book you remember?
Comet in Moominland by the Finnish artist and writer, Tove Jansson. Jansson started writing them in 1945 and the shadow of war and upheaval in Europe was often reflected in her themes, which today still seem as relevant as ever. I would definitely not be the person I am had I not been raised on the Moomins.
A book that changed your life?
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy for its spirit of experiment – it was the first time I had encountered grammar that was driven by mood and feeling as opposed to the rules of language. It was published and won the Man Booker Prize in 1997, when I was 14.
The book you couldn’t finish?
The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne by Gilbert White, but not because I don’t get on with it, rather because I cannot bear to finish it. White was an English parson and naturalist who died in 1793.
Your Covid comfort read?
The Stubborn Light of Things: A Nature Diary by Melissa Harrison is based on the author’s weekly columns for The Times over a number of years, tracing her move from London to rural Suffolk. During the pandemic she adapted it into a podcast of the same name. I listen to it every week and find solace in her recordings of bird song and gentle descriptions of her perambulations.
The book you give as a present?
I don’t often give books as gifts. Unless I know the person really well, I’m wary of miscalculating their taste and landing them with something they will then feel obliged to read. If I do give a book, it will either be very short or a collection of stories or essays; in recent years I have gifted Minor Monuments by Ian Maleney and The Boatman and Other Stories by Billy O’Callaghan.
The writer who shaped you?
The literary critic, Eileen Battersby, was an enormous influence on my reading over the years. If it wasn’t for her reviews in the Irish Times, I would never have found many of my favourite contemporary writers, such as Gerbrand Bakker, Kjersti Skomsvold and Olga Tokarczuk.
The book you would most like to be remembered for?
If any one of them stood the test of time that would be fine by me; I don’t mind which.