Books: Inspirations, Novelist and historian Margaret Forster

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Novelist and historian Margaret Forster

The music

I don't like any music. It's only noise. The best music is silence and it gets harder and harder to find.

The play

Plays in my youth meant either Shakespeare (loathed his stupid plots) at school, or Rattigan and Priestley performed by the local church's amateur dramatic society, so I didn't understand the power of drama until the late Fifties, early Sixties. John Osborne's Look Back in Anger thrilled me - it was of my times and relevant and seemed shocking. I loved The Ginger Man by J P Donleavy too - I came out of it so stunned I couldn't afterwards remember getting home. I've gone on loving absolutely contemporary plays ever since.

The place

The Lake District. I climbed my first mountain aged nine and have been going up others ever since. There's something about standing on the top of Helvellyn or Scafell, looking down on tarns and lakes and, way beyond, the sea which exhilarates me. The magnificence of this landscape really does take my breath away.

The film

I've always adored films. I used to stand outside cinemas when I was only nine or 10 asking adults to take me into films I wasn't old enough to go to without them accompanying me. Saw a lot of rubbish but the first film that made an impact was Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca - it was so atmospheric. I was with poor Mrs de Winter all the way and terrified at what Mrs Danvers was going to do. I saw it so vividly I always thought it was in colour and couldn't believe it was black and white when I saw it again years later.

The artwork

I like landscapes best, big bold oils. Sheila Fell captures all I love best about the Lake District - the ever changing light, the ruggedness clashing with the gentleness, the sweeping curves and jagged peaks of the hills.

Margaret Forster's latest memoir `Precious Lives' is published by Chatto Windus at pounds 16.99

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