Today on the Inheritance Books sofa we have Rachel Cathan. Hi Rachel, grab a seat. While I get teas and cake, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi Rhoda, thanks for the invite; it’s a real treat to be here. [It’s a treat to have you here.]
I am a writer from Bedfordshire and have recently published my first book, 336 Hours.
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember and have always tried to weave them into my personal and professional life wherever possible.
I studied Writing and Publishing at university and began my early career in publishing before moving into wider communications-based roles in my twenties and thirties. In terms of my personal writing, I’ve started many books over the years, but 336 Hours is the first one to reach completion. I guess the subject matter, and its connection to an intense period in my own life, gave me the focus I needed to see this one through.
I lived in London for many years but recently moved around ten minutes away from my childhood home, where I live with my husband, two small children and a cantankerous elderly cat. Alongside writing, I am currently training to be a counsellor.
Which book have you inherited from the generation above? Why is it special?
I probably need to begin by explaining that my dad was an avid book collector, and by ‘avid’ I mean that we needed to have a loft conversion when I was a teenager so that he could bring some order to what had effectively become a small library.
When I was young, my dad and I used to set out on ‘book hunts’ (this was long before the days of Amazon!), searching for an elusive Little Miss or Meg and Mog title that was missing from our collection.
A little later, like most children of my generation, I became a devoted Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake fan, and I will always treasure the signed copies of their books that my dad has passed down to me. He even wrote to Quentin Blake to ask if he might draw a picture of me with my pet hamster for my tenth birthday. The illustration sent in response is still framed on the wall of my mum’s living room. It’s a wonderful illustration, not only in its own right, but also of the life lesson: Ask; you might just get!
It’s difficult to single out just one book from this extensive back-catalogue of inherited books, but if I had to pick one it would be Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. I must have been seventeen or eighteen when I read it for the first time, and I remember my dad handing it to me with the words: ‘You’ll like this. It’s funny’. My teenage self was skeptical on both counts. It was written in 1889; was I really going to like it and find it funny? Could I even admit it if I did?
Almost twenty years later I still laugh out loud if certain sections of that book enter my head. It is a bottomless tonic that can brighten the dullest of days. And another important life lesson: that good writing and good comedy are timeless and will connect with a human of any background and age.
Now, fast approaching the age of thirty-eight, with two small children to run around after, I am reminded of this book often, as I shake my legs back to life after extended periods spent scrunched up on the floor, and wonder if I might in fact be developing housemaid’s knee!
Funnily enough, I’ve just been given a copy of this book by a friend who was horrified that I hadn’t read it! It’s on my TBR pile.
Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why?
A difficult question to answer, but I’m going to say Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Whilst I have fallen in love with hundreds of books in my lifetime, I am usually hard-pushed to remember much of their content when I look back upon them years later. This one I remember in incredible detail; it captivated me in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I love the stunningly dramatic setting of the story, taking the protagonist from a zoo in Pondicherry, to the vast Indian ocean, where he drifts, hopeless, aboard a small lifeboat with only a Bengal tiger for company. And I love the themes explored: human endurance, ingenuity, hope, and the desire within all of us to believe in the unbelievable. The final paragraph moves me to tears of joy just thinking about it now.
I look forward to passing my copy to my children, and I suspect they will fall in love with it just as I did.
I’ve searched high and low for my copy of Life of Pi, but typically can’t put my hands on it now I need it – so for the photo I’ve improvised with a few toys I found in the playroom…
I love your improvised picture. I also love Life of Pi… and Lego (Duplo counts).
Thank you so much for sharing your favourite books with us Rachel. All the very best with your book!