Cultural Life: Philippa Gregory, novelist

Books: I am reading Adam Thorpe's 'Hodd' – a fictional account of Robin Hood, alongside David Baldwin's biography 'Robin Hood: The English Outlaw Unmasked'. It's fascinating to compare the two treatments. Baldwin finds his way through the medieval world, explaining the gaps in the manuscript, and Thorpe has written the manuscript we are missing. It's a wonderful historical jigsaw puzzle and perfect to be read side by side.

Television: I know this is trashy but I love 'The City' on MTV which is a sort-of fly on the wall view of interns in the New York fashion industry. The clothes! The shoes! The nasty girls!

Opera: I had the privilege of seeing Opera North in rehearsal for Donizetti's 'Maria Stuarda', and even with a piano and in rehearsal, I could feel the power of the music. It was tremendous. The production was an unabashed historical fiction with costumes used to enhance the story and to hell with historical accuracy. It was a great gothic battle between two queens and they played it to the hilt.

Ballet: I adore traditional ballet and 'La Fille Mal Gardée' is like 'Giselle' without anything going wrong. Instead of misplaced love and tragic madness and suicide, the beautiful girl in the cottage marries the handsome boy and looks set to live happily every after. It is all tremendously pretty and the humour prevents it from being too saccharine. The Royal Ballet did it earlier this year and I loved it (below).

Visual Arts: The richness of colour and the imagination of the design of the elephants in London and the wildly extravagant oversupply of them. This was modern urban art at its playful best.

'The Red Queen' by Philippa Gregory is published by Simon and Schuster, £18.99.

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