One Minute With: Joan Bakewell, novelist


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The Independent Culture

Where are you now and what can you see? I'm in the corridor outside the House of Lords library... Pugin [decoration] as far as the eye can see, with the Library's reference books – Victorian gilded tomes – behind glass.

What are you currently reading?

'Empire of the Summer Moon' by SC Gwynne. That's a book-group choice: something I would never have heard of otherwise. It's about the American defeat of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe, in the 1870s.

Choose a favourite author and say why you admire her/him

I'm a huge admirer of Sebastian Barry. 'A Long Long Way' is a masterpiece... His lyrical Irish writing makes me want to read each page again, and he has a very interesting take on the Irish civil war: a tragic view; he doesn't take sides.

Describe the room where you usually write

The top floor of a Victorian house, with windows on three sides: it's full of light... There's a balcony overlooking the Primrose Hill rooftops.

What distracts you from writing?

Mostly, current affairs: I'm a news junkie. I need to hear the headlines... Also, Twitter and Facebook: you might urge people to follow me! (@jdbakewell)

Which fictional character most resembles you?

All women of our generation, who have come through post-Suffragette feminism: we all have Jane Eyre in our heads. The popularity of that book is not an accident. You've got to make a lot of effort, but with dedication and good fortune, things will come right. It's her stamina I admire.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

Often they're people of my generation who have tales of their own lives. They're nostalgic, but eager to stay active as they get older.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

In the past, Tom Paine... Now, Nelson Mandela: resolute, courageous, tall, handsome: what more could you want?

Joan Bakewell's new novel is 'She's Leaving Home' (Virago)