The Books That Made Us, with Susan Elderkin and Ella Berthoud

How far can we blame the books we read? Which authors have most influenced us? Which stories from childhood & adolescence have shaped our predilections, our predispositions, our characters?


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Ebenezer is delighted to welcome back Novel Cure author Susan Elderkin – this time with her co-author and co-conspirator, Ella Berthoud. Suse and Ella will lead us on a journey through children’s books, past and present, inspired by their most recent book, The Story Cure: Books to Keep Kids Happy, Healthy and Wise.

As adults, we turn to literature for entertainment & enlightenment, to escape, to find solace and comfort, to amuse and engage and inspire. As children we absorb the values neat. Reading The Fountainhead in your thirties will make you a good dinner party conversationalist – but reading it in your teens can give you a lifelong proclivity for brutal individualism.

In The Novel Cure, Ella & Susan's book of literary prescriptions for adults, they argued that the right book, recommended at the right time, could produce a profound and possibly life-changing reading experience. While developing _**The Story Cure**_, they were struck by how much deeper that experience could be for children. Not only do children’s stories transport, entertain and educate, but they can establish, from the earliest years, a sense of what is normal and right.


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Susan and Ella met on their first day at Downing College, Cambridge, where they bonded over their shared love of Italo Calvino. Over the next three years they munched their way through the English and American canon, starting with The Faerie Queene and ending with Thomas

Susan went on to take an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, and became the author of two prize-winning novels herself Sunset over Chocolate Mountains and The Voices. In 2003 she was listed by Granta magazine in 2003 as one of the top 20 young novelists in the UK. She has worked as a travel writer, journalist and book reviewer, mainly for the Financial Times, and has taught on the creative writing MAs at Birkbeck and Goldsmith's. She currently runs writing workshops and retreats in Somerset, London and the south of France.

Ella went on to study Fine Art at the University of East London. She has since combined her twin passions of reading and painting by listening to audio books while wielding a paintbrush. She has worked as an artist-in-residence at Pentonville Prison, Friends’ School Saffron Walden and Queenswood School. She currently teaches art in West Sussex and leads painting holidays around the world.

In 2008, Suse and Ella set up the now thriving bibliotherapy service at The School of Life in London, where they began prescribing books to clients in person, over skype, and while touring in their vintage ambulance. Their book, The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies, came out in 2013 and has since been published in over 20 countries. The Story Cure: Books to Keep Kids Happy, Healthy and Wise_ came out last year. Ella lives in West Sussex with her husband Carl and their three girls. Susan lives in Somerset with her husband, the neurologist Ash Ranpura, and their son.

They still regularly send one another books to keep each other on the straight and narrow.




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2017Martin Keeley