Silvia Mazzobel and I met on Twitter after she stumbled upon my novel, The Third Wheel, on The Pigeonhole. Born and raised in Italy, the 37-year-old now lives in Brighton, England with her wife where she works as a translator.

A keen reader and traveller, as well as being fond of “tea, candles, food, art, yoga and cinema”, she powers through books at a rate I’m jealous of. She evidently loves books, as was proven when I asked her a few questions about her favourites and she was eager to tell me all about them. Here is what she said.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve always been someone who couldn’t read more than one book simultaneously, or perhaps simply someone who didn’t want to do that, preferring to sink deep into a novel at a time. However, since discovering two awesome apps, I find myself juggling several at a time now, and not only am I able to separate each one in my head, but I love it! Which brings me to my current reading list: Becoming by Michelle Obama, Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop, The Forgotten Sister by Caroline Bond and Don’t Tell Me You’re Afraid by Giuseppe Catozzella, the latter of which I’m reading in the original Italian.

Have you read any books translated from a foreign language and how did you find them?

I grew up in Italy and 90% of the books I’ve read during the first two decades of my life were books in translation. At the time I wasn’t thinking of them in terms of translated fiction, but this changed after I began my translation studies and started reading fairly regularly – and now almost exclusively – in English. Despite having great appreciation for the work of translators and their skills, I will normally choose to read a novel in its original version if I speak the language. In my case, this applies to English, Italian and German. For all other languages, I am completely open to reading in translation as I don’t want to restrict my world view. I recommend Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain, translated from the French by Louise Lalaurie. You will be reading in English but breathing in French!

Do you judge a book by its cover?

I do like covers but I don’t decide to buy a book based on that alone. In fact, I would say that the cover plays no significant role in my book-buying behaviour. Of course, I am sometimes drawn by the look of a book and that’s what might inspire me to pick it off a shelf but I am much more drawn to titles. What I do find interesting, however, is how a cover for a specific book might change over time when new editions come out. Ditchling Museum in Sussex celebrated 20 years of Penguin Essentials last year with a display of 100 covers and I loved spotting which covers shared the same title but were completely different. I also enjoy looking at how the covers are changed in foreign editions of books and trying to understand why a specific choice in colour or imagery might work for a country but not for another.

Which author, dead or alive, would you most like to meet?

Anyone who knows me would say without hesitation that I’d choose to meet Virginia Woolf – and they would be right. I adore the woman, her accomplishments and her legacy. However, the strange fact is that I have barely read any of her work. I drank in every word of A Room of One’s Own and thoroughly enjoyed, together with one essay collection, while Orlando made me stumble. I’ve always wondered whether my English at the time was perhaps not ready for such an epic novel, but I’ve been too scared to give it another go. We all need goals though, right?

What were your favourite books growing up?

I wish that I had kept better track of my reading while growing up (where was Goodreads when I needed it most?) but there is no doubt that my favourite books were Agatha Christie’s novels. I would spend entire days immersed in the fictional worlds of Poirot and Miss Marple and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, by the time I started collecting a specific edition of her novels (in Italian, at that point in my life), which featured a white spine and a yellow title section on the front cover, this was being phased out by the publisher and I was never able to complete my collection. Another goal for my adult self!

Hardback, paperback, eBook or audiobook?

Until the end of last year I would have said paperback and hardback all the way, with a preference for paperbacks due to their being lighter to hold. My world was then turned upside down by my discovery of a wonderful app called The Pigeonhole and my wife gifting me a Kindle. Around the same time, another app gave me a newfound appreciation for audiobooks. It’s called BorrowBox and I can’t seem to have enough of it. To give you an idea of how much my habits have changed, consider that all of the books I read in 2017 were either paperbacks or hardbacks. Out of the 76 books I read in 2018, sixteen were eBooks and six were audiobooks. So far, out of the 40 books I’ve read this year, only two were physical books. Quite a change, eh?

Can you tell me about a book that scared you?

The award for scariest book ever would definitely have to go to The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup, as skilfully translated from the Danish by Caroline Waight. I’ve never understood how people can find books so scary that they have to keep them in a separate room at night or place them in the freezer, like Joey from Friends used to do with The Shining! Now I know. I participated in the blog tour for this book at the end of last year and – had the translator not agreed to do a Q&A with me – I would have had nothing to say about the book other than the fact that I was struggling with it because I could only read it during daylight hours and, once my work day was over, there were not enough of them left. Terrifying… but also really good.

Can you tell me about a book that made you laugh?

In at the Deep End by Kate Davies. It is quite certainly the funniest book I’ve ever come across but I haven’t finished reading it yet. The crazy thing about it is that – after the first few chapters – I almost chose not to finish it as I thought it was a little too crude for my liking. Not being a fan of giving up, though, I read what was going to be the decisive chapter and I became that annoying person that sits next to you on the sofa, starts giggling (or snorting with laughter if we’re being honest!) and asks you to stop whatever you’re doing because ‘you just have to listen to this one’!

Can you tell me about a book that made you cry?

I am the person who cries when something bad happens to fictional characters. Or when something good happens to them. Then along came The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech. I did so much ugly crying while reading this that it’s unbelievable. I just got so invested in the lives of all the characters, which were pervaded by this beautiful melancholy and hopeless dreams. I would recommend anyone to have their hearts crushed by this novel!

The impossible question: what is your favourite book?

My favourite book is Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson. What I mostly found fascinating when I first read it in English is that it is up to the reader to decide the gender of the narrator. Is it a woman? Is it a man? I have recommended it to various friends over the years and it always generates interesting conversations. I am not sure how this has been handled in translation and it is something I have yet to explore but I’m assuming that most translators had to make a choice, which renders it even more fascinating in my eyes.


You can find Silvia on Twitter or at her delightful blog, Book after Book. In March, I had the honour of her interviewing me about my novel, The Third Wheel.

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