For a long time, Elizabeth Buchan led a double life as a publisher and author, successfully pursuing both careers simultaneously until she became a full-time writer in 1994. Her latest novel, The Second Wife, is published by Michael Joseph this week, priced £12.99. Here she chooses her top 10 books guaranteed to give comfort during the ending of a relationship.
1. Footsteps by Richard Holmes
I first read this many years ago and it has stayed with me. Every so often, I return to it in order to immerse myself in its wonderful prose and insights. It combines travelogue with biography, detective work with a probing inner exploration, and is both an account of a physical journey and a remapping of the writer’s imagination. The book opens with an homage to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Travels with a Donkey, in which Holmes describes his own trek over the Cevennes, during which he abandoned his ambition to become a poet, having been led “far away into the undiscovered land of other’s men and women’s lives … towards biography”. It is the turning point of his life and for the remainder of the book – as he hunts down subjects that include Mary Wollenstencraft, Shelley, Gerard de Nerval and Gautier – he goes on to explore the nature of the relationship between biographer and quarry. The book so enraptured me that I myself walked in the company of friends over the Cevennes in his footsteps. It was one of the best journeys of my own life.