Country girl: I grew up in the village of Dauntsey, in rural southwest England, where my parents were farmers. At the age of 12, I was sent to a boarding school in south Wiltshire. I was rather lonely but there was one major compensation: it gave me a wonderful opportunity to learn languages.
My French teacher was inspirational. She was from Adel, outside Leeds, and spoke French with a strong Yorkshire accent. But she made Racine’s tragedies and Mérimée’s Carmen come alive in a way that I’ve never forgotten. I also did Italian and Russian, and was determined to be able to speak and read them.
I remember I tackled Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi. It was challenging for someone with only GCSE Italian but even though I struggled to understand it, it opened a window into another world for me.