x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Camilla Morton's whimsical reading list for summer

The author of the illustrated series of fashion fairy-tale memoirs shares her eclectic favourites.

The author Camilla Morton. Courtesy HarperCollins
The author Camilla Morton. Courtesy HarperCollins

Some people think fashion is a lot of frivolity and fairy tales. For Camilla Morton that's true: the author's continuing series of illustrated fashion fairy-tale memoirs tells whimsical stories around the careers of some of fashion's greatest figures, illustrated by the designers themselves.

Diane von Furstenberg is her next subject, but before Christian Lacroix and the Tale of Sleeping Beauty and Manolo Blahnik and the Tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker, she had made her name as a purveyor of wise and witty advice on the subject of high heels and all that surrounds them. How to Walk in High Heels and A Year in High Heels bring together tips on the art of living gracefully from the eclectic likes of Samuel Pepys, Kylie Minogue, Gisele Bündchen, Dita Von Teese and Stephen Jones.

Morton takes an equally whimsical approach to reading, tucking into everything from Shakespeare to JK Rowling to Thomas Hardy. "I've never worked out how to tune in the TV in my house, so I have books everywhere," she says. "My dad has kindly wired up the computer so I have to check three news articles before I can check my emails, but essentially I just live in a different century or a land of make-believe."

Here is Morton's list of favourite reads for the summer.

The Complete Works of Shakespeare

I had an amazing drama teacher at school, and my mum was also a drama teacher, so she would read Shakespeare when we were little, with such amazing voices that they were more my bedtime stories than children's stories. I'm a words person. I can't draw, I can't paint, but you can paint pictures with words, and his are so beautifully constructed. It's a bit like a symphony: you take out one note and it just doesn't quite work.

A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy

This is absolutely my favourite Hardy. Often when you read a big, heavy classic, it takes about 12 chapters to get into it, and you think, "Are people just being really noble reading this?" Whereas in A Pair of Blue Eyes, the nearest Hardy came to doing an autobiography, by about the second paragraph, when he describes Esmerelda's eyes, you are totally sucked in. When you have that first feeling of love, you do feel so invincible, and I think that this really captures that.

The Ordinary Princess by MM Kaye

When I go travelling, I always have a copy of this. You have to try to get hold of the old Puffin edition, illustrated by her, which makes it even more charming. It's the story of how even if you're ordinary, you can still be a princess. It's one of those stories that when you're having a bit of a rubbish day, you read it and you're like: "Aah." It's a children's book but it transcends any age.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

I love the way that you never know the heroine's name: she's in the shadow of Mr and Mrs de Winter and there's this horrible murder. The first line: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again", is such an evocative phrase. It's really spooky and sinister and dark, but at the same time it's got hope and strength in it as well, because this girl is desperately trying to bring hope and light into Maxim's life.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling

This book to me speaks of my time living in Paris. I think children's stories have to be written even better than adult stories, because in an adult world you can be more complex, but with children's stories you have to explain things in a very simple way. I used to read it travelling back and forth from St Pancras to Paris, and now when I go on the Eurostar, maybe two or three times a week, I always listen to the Stephen Fry audiobook. There's something comforting about knowing a story so well that you know exactly where you're going with it.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

This is a really nice story about how this little girl finds herself through books. Matilda is someone I see a little bit of myself in, because I like going down to the library and getting lost in books. Roald Dahl isn't condescending to children but he tells them things that are slightly beyond their years, so he's like, "Of course you know what this word means" and "Of course you've heard of Charles Dickens". As much as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the most well-known Roald Dahl, this is the one that I adored.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

What I like about Pride and Prejudice is how Austen reminds you about the art of letter-writing. You couldn't just send a text or an email or a sloppy little "C u l8r" - you had to sit down and write a letter. There are 21 letters of correspondence in this and the drama is played out through them. Nowadays, people are so preoccupied by their career and independence that sometimes, the art of falling in love is a little bit forgotten.

Camilla Morton's book Diane von Furstenberg and the Tale of the Empress's New Clothes (Harper Collins) will be released on November 6.