Harriet Hastings is the founder of Biscuiteers, a brilliant company that specialises in creating decorated biscuit gifts, all of which are handmade and iced in London and sent in beautifully illustrated boxes.
This month, with Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day around the corner, we asked Harriet to shine a light on some of her favourite books written by women.
From 1996 up until end of 2022 I was running the Women’s Prize for Fiction with Kate Mosse. The Prize has introduced me to an incredible range of the best in contemporary women’s fiction from around the world. For International Women’s Day 2023 I have picked four of my favourite prize novels – all very different and a reflection of the extraordinary range and ambition of women’s fiction.
Old Filth by Jane Gardam (shortlisted 2005)
This book was actually on one of the early prize lists back in 2005. I re-read it recently as a new anniversary edition has been published with a foreword by Nina Stibbe It is actually a trilogy and this time I read all three novels. Filth stands for ‘Failed in London, Try Hong Kong’and is a whole life story of Sir Edward Feathers QC, Raj orphan and eminent judge. It is witty, poignant and full of compassionate wisdom as each novel looks at Eddie’s life from a different perspective. Above all the characters are so engaging and memorable that it is hard to leave them behind.
Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011 longlist)
When I first read Jennifer Egan I thought her writing was so fresh and original and funny, A visit from the Goon Squad is actually a set of thirteen short stories with a large cast of characters all connected to Bernie Salazar, a record producer and Sasha his assistant. Her writing takes you on an extraordinary and unexpected ride around contemporary America through different places and time while connecting all the different threads throughout to create a novel partly about circumstance and connectedness.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2016 shortlist)
I think this was a life changing book for me - a shocking, compelling and also beautiful story about trauma and friendship and our capacity for love and endurance. It was revelatory and terrible in so many ways but also absolutely unforgettable. I’m not sure I could ever read it again but I am so glad that I did. It is a long book and it takes you on an extraordinary journey with Jude and his college friends although it is fair to say that it is a very tough read indeed at times and don’t expect happy endings. Now opening on West end stage with James Norton.
Larrys party by carol shields (winner 1998)
I re-read this as part of the 25th year celebrations of the prize and had forgotten what a marvellous writer Carol Shields is. She became very famous for the Stone Diaries but I think this is just as good – the ordinary life of Larry Weller with a unique talent for designing mazes. Carol Shields had an extraordinary eye for the small details that make a life and she successfully uses the labyrinth allegory to explore one man’s experiences at the end of the 20th century.
Discover our Mother's Day collection here. The Emma Bridgewater x Biscuiteers Time for Tea sets feature an assortment of lovingly hand-iced biscuits inspired by our Wildflower Walks collection.