Penelope Fitzgerald is probably my favourite contemporary author. The Gate of Angels (HarperCollins), which is set in Cambridge, is about a fictitious college called Angel. It’s brilliant, funny, subversive and subtle with an otherworldly dimension, which is what she excels in and I also write about.
William Maxwell, by contrast, is a rather unregarded author, but The Chateâu (Vintage) is a genuinely happy book about an utterly delightful couple in post-war France who are baffled and confused by the reception they receive, yet utterly delighted by Europe. It’s very rare to get a book about a happily married couple and I reread it when I want to be reinvigorated by the possibilities of human relationships.
Rowan Williams’s (Christ’s 1968) book Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction (Continuum) is also very good indeed. I’m keen on his theology, but he’s also, I think, the greatest living expert on the work of Dostoevsky, who is one of my own favourite novelists. I worked for many years as a psychoanalyst, and Dostoevsky’s psychology is both very dark and very profound.