Sarah Jost was born and grew up in Switzerland in small yet stunning Montreux against the backdrop of Lake Geneva and the Alps. She studied medieval French, modern French, and history of art at the Université de Lausanne and worked part-time as a publishing assistant alongside her studies.
She has been living in the UK since 2008 and works as a housemistress and French teacher at a girls' school, which she considers an immersive course in character study. Sarah lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, Luke, and their adorable and goofy golden shepherd, Winnie.
Today she tells us about her Six Books
I’m currently reading Persuasion by Jane Austen for the first time. Like pretty much everyone else on the planet, I’m a big fan of hers and re-read Pride and Prejudice about once a year. (Not counting how many times I’ve watched the BBC TV series! That’d be embarrassing.) For some reason I’d never picked up Persuasion, but the reactions to the recent Netflix adaptation made me want to read it for myself. Austen truly is the master of character. Everything is unsaid and quiet and felt so keenly and shown deftly in half a sentence. She can draw a portrait of someone in one line and the reader will immediately know who that person is, and feel like they have met them before. She is so modern in how she taps into how humans socialize, our hopes and dreams and communication mishaps. As I’m thinking about and planning my third book, here I am begging her to show me how it’s done!
I can’t wait to read Between Us by Mhairi McFarlane, which comes out in the US in August. The hook sounds fantastic: a woman finds out that her boyfriend has put all the private things she has told him in confidence in his new TV show. Great potential for drama there and I can’t wait to read it! Mhairi writes the very best kind of woman fiction: laced with humour, awkwardness, character growth and big moments of ‘win!’, but she also tackles some dark themes head on, including toxic relationships, grief and abuse. Every book I’ve read from her so far is a masterclass of making you laugh one page and tear up the next.
Not currently, but I wish I could re-read The Invisible Life of Addie Larue for the first time, as it is so beautiful and haunting and perfect. I listened to it as an audiobook when I was alone on a writing week in Cornwall, and the mere thought of it conjures the ragged coastal paths, the screeching of seagulls, a bittersweet kind of loneliness and the wonderful atmosphere V.E. Schwab created in that novel. The sheer ambition of the plot, that premise that pulls you right in… What if you could be free, but always forgotten? I love books about art and belonging, and this was perfection. Actually, I think I might be talking myself into purchasing a physical copy and diving right back into it.
4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?
Not quite that, but I have mixed feelings about The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. On paper, it really isn’t the kind of story I enjoy reading. A butler who thinks back on his life in the most British, repressed kind of way… Very far from the stories that I would be personally attracted to. Yet I gasped when I read a certain sentence towards this end, and I have thought about this novel very regularly since. It is such a brilliant demonstration of outstanding writing and character building, and a masterclass of how to slowly build a whole novel towards a climax that is about regret, and loss, and a character unravelling as much as he will ever allow himself to. I cried for that man, and I didn’t even really like him.
5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?
I grew up in Switzerland and my first language is French. I learnt English when I moved to the UK in my mid-twenties, but thinking about it now, I seem to have read quite a bit in translation, perhaps because there were more YA books available in English than French. I was an avid reader as a child and I still remember the moment the librarian in my local town told me I could graduate to the grown-up library (just a different room across the corridor), as I had pretty much exhausted what they had in stock for children. Our mum would read a chapter of a book to us every night, until I was in my teens; it was a precious time when we would gather as three sisters and enjoy the sound of her voice and travel together in the halo of the side-lamp. I strangely have very few memories of particular books; ‘Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret’ comes to mind, as well as the first time I sobbed for a book I was reading by myself, ‘The Bridge to Terabithia’. They must all have had an influence on me, though; I’ve been so lucky that my mother gave me the gift of understanding the power of writing and how stories can bring people together.
My debut Five First Chances is being published by Sourcebooks on April 18 this year. Louise, the protagonist, is stuck in her life: anxious about the future and full of regrets about the past. When she learns that her ex is engaged, she finds herself falling back in time to a night that could have changed everything. She keeps re-living a period of about two years of her life, which brings her closer to a certain someone… and she gradually discovers who she is and what is worth fighting for. It is a love story, and people have been rooting for Lou and her love interest, which is brilliant, but it’s first and foremost about Lou learning to love herself enough to finally show up for the ones who matter. It’s awesome because there’s light and darkness and a cast of loveable characters. Some of it happens in Switzerland, in the UK and further afield; even better, the zoo plays a big part, as do otters and elephants… A book can’t be awesome without animals in it. Or cheese. Well, if you agree, do check it out!
Thank you Sarah!
POSTED BY: Paul Weimer. Ubiquitous in Shadow, but I’m just this guy, you know? @princejvstin.