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  • Born into a theatrical family, Harriet Devine abandoned her early ambitions on discovering she was not a very good actress. Until recently she taught English at a small UK university, and now works for the British Library as an oral history interviewer.

    Harriet blogs at the ingeniously entitled Harriet Devine's Blog!

    Mark Thwaite: What first drew you to blogging Harriet?

    Harriet Devine: I honestly can't remember what started me on reading other peoples' blogs -- possibly I read an extract in a newspaper? I do know that I got hooked very quickly, and soon had a stable of about half a dozen that I read, and commented on, regularly. It was so great to find a whole community of people out there whose interests I shared, even if I didn't always agree with their opinions. So, after many months, I took courage and started my own.

    MT: What do you most get out of it?

    HD: I've always enjoyed thinking and writing about books, but usually have had to do this in an academic context. Blogging is a wonderfully relaxed way of doing this! It gives me so much pleasure when people comment that my reviews have made them want to read things I've written about. I've also made some really good friends among fellow bloggers, though I've only so far met a couple of them face to face.

    MT: What are your favourite blogs?

    HD: Top of the list has to be dovegreyreader, the first blog I ever read, and still a real favorite -- Lynne was so encouraging to me when I first started blogging.

    I really enjoy Cornflower, a wonderful mix of books, baking and knitting -- very inspiriing.

    For intellectual stimulation I like Tales from the Reading Room and always enjoy the intelligent reviews, poems and pictures on Books Do Furnish a Room.

    I'm very fond of the delightful Stuck In A Book, and Normblog is a great place to visit for stimulating thoughts on all kinds of important issues.


    MT: What are you reading right now Harriet?

    HD: Right now I am reading, and very much enjoying, Little Dorrit, which, though a great Dickens fan, I had never read. But I've put it aside for a week as I don't want to get ahead of the BBC TV series which is on at the moment. I'm also about halfway through Maggie O'Farrell's The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, a book I've been meaning to read for ages. I'm always a bit wary when I start something that many people have raved about in case I'm disappointed, which does happen from time to time. But not in this case: I'm finding it enthralling and hard to put down.


    MT: What books that you have have read recently do you most recommend?

    HD: Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, a funny, sad, imaginative story which subtly and perceptively looks into the human heart; Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture (which really should have won the Booker this year), a wonderful, disturbing, beautifully written novel about a woman wrongly confined in a mental hospital for over 60 years; Julia Gregson's East of the Sun, set in India in a wonderfully imagined 1920s, and following the adventures of three young women -- a classy comfort read; and Owen Shears Resistance, a novel set in a remote Welsh valley, in which the Germans are imagined to have won the second world war.

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