Getting to know Jane: My life in books

By admin
13 October 2015

YOU assistant editor and books editor Jane Vorster shares some of the books that shaped her life.

YOU assistant editor and books editor Jane Vorster shares some of the books that shaped her life.


The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I was completely spellbound when a teacher read this book to us in junior school - it's about a pilot who after crashing his plane in the Sahara desert is approached by a golden-haired boy who asks him to draw him a sheep. The boy turns out to be a prince from asteroid B-612, who loves a flower and thinks grown-ups can often be stuffy bores.

I think it might have been this book that turned me into a Francophile. I am the proud owner of a French edition which was published in 1946 -- despite taking a course at the Alliance Française a while back I still haven't managed to read it in its original though. But I do look forward to revisiting it in English again with my daughters when they are old enough to appreciate it.


The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Disaster! First week of my third year at Rhodes University and I was in a flat spin after discovering I was supposed to have read Tolkien's epic tale as well as Charles Dickens' Bleak House and a Shakespeare play. I don't know why it had never occurred to me to track down the reading list before the holidays but now the chickens had come home to roost. The Tolkien alone was over 1 000 pages!

For two weeks I sat holed up in my room, reading for hours on end. It turned out to be such fun. You couldn't have asked for two more different books but I loved them both. And in a weird way I really enjoyed that intense reading experience.


The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

I was in high school when this book was published, prompting Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, to issue a fatwa calling for Rushdie to be assassinated. I was intrigued. What could he possibly have written to cause such an outcry? The book was banned in South Africa so I couldn't find out.

Years later when it was unbanned I bought a copy - but after reading it from cover to cover I'm still none the wiser. The message of the book totally eluded me, I thought Rushdie was trying too hard to be offensive and I found it a chore to finish. It still sits on book shelf, taunting me. But it taught me an important lesson: never believe the hype . . .


Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson

I loved this book so much that I didn't want it to end - and so when it did, I turned back to the first page and started reading it again. It's the only time I've ever done this. It's a meditation on love and loss and failed relationships -- but what makes it even more intriguing is that the gender of the narrator is never declared. And the writing is just beautiful.


Chocolat by Joanne Harris

It's a tale about love, magic, religion and chocolate but the reason I'm including it in my top five is because it inspired our eldest daughter's name: Anouk! I've interviewed Joanne on two occasions and both times found it a really difficult experience. She hates journalists and doesn't give an inch. Not even telling her that I'd named my first-born after one of her characters helped – she was still an utter grouch. I still like her books though!

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