Life stories: Maree Todd
What was your favourite book as a child?
Growing up in the 70s and 80s I was a big Enid Blyton fan. She was a prolific writer, and there was a series for every stage of childhood. From ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ to the ‘Famous Five’ and ‘Secret Seven’ and on to ‘St Clare’s’ and ‘Mallory Towers’ I loved them all. I have fond memories of reading Noddy to the girls next door too. Looking back with adult eyes there is much to criticise in terms of reflexive prejudice and gender politics – but as a child, the attraction of magical worlds, adult-free adventures and the exotic life of boarding school and gymkhanas was huge.
Which fictional character did you most identify with as a child?
I was always one of the smallest in my class at school and I wonder if that gave me my love for Asterix – a brave, intelligent and shrewd warrior but also tiny! My best friend loved them too and we used to eagerly await a new one arriving in the library. With hindsight, Getafix may well have inspired me into pharmacy.
Is there a book which got you into politics?
I love reading for pleasure and pretty much every book I have ever read has enriched my life, taken me to places I can’t go in real life and honed my understanding of people. For over 10 years now I’ve been helping out at the Ullapool Book Festival – *this year coming to a computer near you! It is food for my soul: Scottish, international, fiction, non-fiction, English, Gaelic, poetry, short stories, novels and autobiographies, and usually a bit of a ceilidh too. Is it a cop out to say all the books I read got me into politics?
Which book couldn’t you finish?
I really struggled with There’s Something About Kevin. It was a disturbing and distressing book, but I persevered, and the pace picked up after the first hundred pages and I did eventually finish it. I don’t give up easily!
What is your favourite novel and why?
I have loads of favourites, but in recent years I loved The Book Thief. It told a familiar story from a new perspective. I loved the characters, and I liked the quirks – ‘Death’ as narrator, all the colour imagery and the compound German curses.
Is there a book you would recommend to other MSPs?
Reading His Bloody Project is highly recommended if you want to begin to understand my part of the world. It’s set in Applecross, is brilliantly written – and will provoke a whole range of emotions and urge you to learn more.
Which book would you be embarrassed about others seeing on your bookshelf during a Zoom call? See question one - anything by Enid Blyton!
*The Ullapool Book Festival is online every Wednesday until 4 August