The book that I most wish I’d written is The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson.
It’s the story of Anna, who has an idyllic and privileged childhood, growing up in the glittering city of St Petersburg. When revolution tears through Russia, Anna and her family are forced to flee to England, and here a very different life awaits them. Determined to take care of the people she loves, Anna takes a job as a maid at the Earl of Westerholme’s crumbling but beautiful mansion where she meets a cast of extraordinary characters and falls for the new Earl. The only problem is he’s already engaged, and his fiancée might just be the worst woman in the world…
This novel is the ultimate comfort read, the type of book that leaves you with an enormous grin on your face and a feeling that you’ve been well looked after. I love the way that Eva writes with such warmth, the way her characters leap off the page so that even those who don’t get much space feel like dear, long-loved friends. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read The Secret Countess (it must be dozens!), and each time I feel like I find something new to love about it. It’s not just one thing, it’s everything – the people, the gorgeous settings, the clothes, the jewels, the romance. I think it’s an absolute dream of a book.
Laura Wood’s latest book Under a Dancing Star (978-1407192406) is published by Scholastic, £7.99 pbk.
The Secret Countess (978-1447280101) is published by Macmillan Children’s Books, £7.99 pbk.