‘Honestly it’s gorgeous!  A divine shade of purple, with thistles that gleam in the light. The artists and designers behind the wonderful book-covers on our shelves these days deserve enormous respect and thanks.’

This month we are particularly well served with fantastic new historical fiction releases. Sally Magnusson’s latest novel, The Ninth Child, is one of them. We caught up with her to chat about her favourite books.


The Ninth Child
By Sally Magnusson
Published by Two Roads


The book as . . . memory. What is your first memory of books and reading?

The first encounter I remember with a book was with an Icelandic one of my father’s when I was about three. It had pictures of gnomes in it, to which I felt bound to add my own embellishments in crayon. He was not amused! For actual reading as a child it was Enid Blyton all the way: boarding schools and secret societies and ginger beer galore.


The book as . . . your work. Tell us about your latest book The Ninth Child. Is there something in particular you’re setting out to explore?

The Ninth Child is set around Loch Katrine during the building of the great works to provide Glasgow with pure water in the mid-nineteenth century. It’s about the collision between industrial progress and the ancient folklore of Scotland, exemplified in the spooky figure of Rev Robert Kirke. A major focus is the role of women in Victorian society, and what it was like for those who struggled to become mothers when that was just about all that was expected of them.


The book as . . . object. What is your favourite beautiful book?

When it comes to books, my favourite anything changes from week to week. So many books are beautifully designed these days and it brings me joy to own them. Right now I’d have to be honest and say my current favourite is … the hardback of The Ninth Child, which I saw for the first time just the other day.  Honestly it’s gorgeous!  A divine shade of purple, with thistles that gleam in the light. The artists and designers behind the wonderful book-covers on our shelves these days deserve enormous respect and thanks.


The book as . . . inspiration. What is your favourite book that has informed how you see yourself?

That’s a hard one.  The book that jumps to mind is Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, which I read as I was embarking on my first novel a few years ago. I remember thinking so keenly that this was the kind of novel I’d love to write – and that maybe, just maybe, I could write: using words beautifully but also with energy and humour, rooted in history without parading its research, loving to entertain, stirring all the senses, getting inside characters …. I could go on. It’s been a big inspiration in the kind of fiction writer I’d like to be.


The book as . . . a relationship. What is your favourite book that bonded you to someone else?

My sister and I exchange and recommend books to each other all the time, and every book shared bonds us a bit more.  We know each other’s taste so well. The last one she send me was Circe, by Madeline Miller. ‘You’ll love the language,’ she said. ‘You’ll adore the idea of a goddess who wishes she was human.’ She was exactly right. Wonderful book.  Wonderful sister.


The book as . . . entertainment. What is your favourite rattling good read?

The one I go back to every few years is Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. Every book by this brilliant author is a rattling good read, but this is my favourite. By turns dark, funny, lyrical, angry and of course, being Dickens, a bit sentimental. Trouble is, like all those great Victorian novels it’s HUGE.


The book as . . . a destination. What is your favourite book set in a place unknown to you?

Right now I’m re-reading Robert Harris’s Pompeii, in preparation for a birthday trip with one of my sons. I’ve never been to Pompeii before and Harris is brilliant at taking us back to the human impact of the eruption of Vesuvius all those centuries ago – and keeping us agog with his usual brilliant ability to tell a story. As I said, a different favourite every week!


The book as . . . the future. What are you looking forward to reading next?

Like everyone, I’ve been longing for Hilary Mantel to complete her Wolf Hall trilogy. By the time you read this, I’m hoping to have The Mirror and the Light on my bedside table at long last.


The Ninth Child by Sally Magnusson is published by Two Roads, priced £14.99.

Share this


Radical Scotland click Radical Scotland

‘What then has been my crime? Having dared to be, according to the measure of my feeble abilities, a …


The Medallion click The Medallion

‘Reunited after the war. As much as she wanted to believe that, Rosa could not.’