Lucy Worsley works in Hampton Court Palace, London, as Principal Curator for the Historic Royal Palaces Charitable Foundation, and hosts the BBC Lady Killers podcast. I wrote about the history of detective fiction in A Very British Murder before embarking on the biographies of Queen Victoria, Jane Austen, and most recently – Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman, published by Hodder & Stoughton. Lucy will appear at MurderOne at Dún Laoghaire LexIcon, Co Dublin, on Friday at 7.30pm.
The book next to your bed?
I read In search of Marie Secoll Written by Helen Rappaport, a book that removes layers of mystery from the life of a Crimean war hero. I love history books like these that describe the author’s journey through the archives.
The first book you remember?
Brat Amelia Jane! by Enid Blyton. We visited a library while on a trip to my grandmother in Yorkshire, and I found out that I plastered them even though no one quite realized I could read. I think it should have been paid for, because I clearly used up at least half of it.
Your general book?
must be Marple: Twelve New Storiesthe collection of 12 of today’s best suspense writers, from Derrida Sy Mitchell to Jan Kwok, imagine [Agatha Christie] Character in new stories. I recently met a few writers at a small party where we toasted Miss Marple with cherry brandy.
Your favorite literary character?
Snofkin, from Tov Jansson Mominland. I love his independence, his quiet wisdom, his love of walking alone through rainforests, and his little pointy hat. My personal celebration when my autobiography of Agatha Christie entered the bestseller list was to put on my pointy rain hat and go out for a walk alone in the drip garden.
The book that changed your life?
The late Mark Girouard Life in an English country house. I picked it up by chance in a library the moment I had just finished my degree in history, and it changed the course of my life. This made me want to do a Ph.D. in social history and it led to my career working in historic homes.
The book you couldn’t finish?
Game of thrones by George R.R. Martin. I really tried, because I’m in love with Tolkien, and I thought it would be the same.
Reading your comfort covid?
I can’t get enough of mid-century female novelists: Elizabeth Bowen, Rosamund Lehman, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Beam. My idea of heaven is to read one of them in a bubble bath while also eating ice chocolate.
The book you give as a gift?
I hope Robert Harris and Dan Jones never stop writing. They give me good gifts for a particular family member who always wants the newest one. Please keep it up, gentlemen! Otherwise, I may have to expend valuable energy to get more creative with gift giving.
The writer who shaped you?
Jane Austen. I reread it endlessly for its wit and wisdom. I hope one day I will learn the patience and humility of Ann Persuade. Meanwhile I try to suppress the annoying qualities of Emma Woodhouse that I easily see in myself.
The book you most want to remember?
I hope my books, which take a sympathetic look at the topics that are sometimes placed in the box marked “difficult women,” will remind me of me. Jane Austen and Agatha Christie impress me and a very young, very rude, sense of kinship too.