Cecile Pin’s exceptional debut novel Wandering Souls is a beautiful and haunting look at the plight of Vietnamese refugees in 1970s France. Partly based on her mother’s experience of coming to the country as a refugee, it’s about identity, loss and trying to find a feeling of belonging – a very human picture of the sacrifices and decisions refugees have to make in a world that seems to not care. 

Tell us about the bookshelves in your home.

I have about five bookshelves in my living room and bedroom combined, roughly organised by category: fiction and narrative non-fiction, serious non-fiction, classics, poetry, etc. I’ll say about half of them remain sadly unread: I’m guilty of buying new books while my TBR list grows and grows. Most of my bookshelves have objects on them too, picture frames or vases, holiday or sentimental memorabilia. There’s also a growing number of little piles of books scattered between my houseplants, bed and desk. 

Which books are your most recent bookshelf additions?

I’ve just received early copies of Arrangements in Blue by Amy Key and Ghost Girl, Banana by Wiz Wharton, which I can’t wait to dive into. I’ve also been going through a Greek myth retelling phase, and recently purchased The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker and Pandoras Jar by Natalie Haynes. 

Do you judge people by their bookshelves? 

I try not to (though, let’s face it, I probably do a little). Most of my friends live in small London apartments with flatmates, so space is scarce and what’s on display won’t always reflect their owners. Also, who knows, maybe they’re audiobook or eBook readers…

Which is your most treasured book? 

I’ve accumulated a few signed copies over the years, including works by Ali Smith, Sally Rooney, Ian McEwan and Bernardine Evaristo. If I had to pick one, it would probably be my signed copy of Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Bookshelves by Cecile Pin

What do your bookshelves say about you? 

That I have quite broad taste – I’ll read anything, from sci-fi to graphic novels, short stories to long epics. Just no horror! And that I tend to read more women than men. They’re also a visual display of the different publishing houses I worked at over the last few years, and all the books I managed to snatch at those places along the way.

What’s the oldest book on your shelves

My dad has a real knack for finding antique books for a bargain, and he recently gave me a late-18th-century copy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’ Second Discourse (Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes), which he found on eBay! It’s very precious to me, so I’ve asked him to safekeep it for me for the time being. 

Do you rearrange your bookshelves often – and where do your replaced books go?

I try to go through a cull every couple of years, giving my old books to charity shops and friends. Doing this interview did trigger a big Marie Kondo moment actually – I got rid of about eighty books. 

Do you have any books from your childhood on your shelves?

Most of them are at my family home, in France. There are lots of Roald Dahls and French books: Tom-Tom et NanaAstérix et Obélix comic books, which I’ll sometimes pick up when I’m back for Christmas, and read leisurely with my young cousins. 

Book lender, book giver or book borrower?

Book giver. I used to be a book lender but I would, without fail, either never get my books back or get them back all battered. So I prefer to just give them now.

Whose bookshelves are you most curious about?

I would love to browse Fran Lebowitz’s 10,000-volume book collection, as well as Stanley Kubrick’s, who was a voracious reader. And Kazuo Ishiguro and Elif Shafak, who I admire a lot.

Introduced and compiled by Sonia Weir

Cecile Pin grew up in Paris and New York City. She moved to London at eighteen to study Philosophy at University College London, followed by an MA at King’s College London. She previously worked in publishing. She writes for Bad Form Review, was longlisted for their Young Writer’s prize and is a London Writers Awards 2021 winner (Literary Fiction category). Her debut novel Wandering Souls is out now in hardback, eBook and audio download from Fourth Estate, will be published in eleven territories in 2023, and is longlisted for the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction.  
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Author photo by Ariane Lebon

Sonia Weir is a contributing editor to Bookanista. She started the Ultimate Reads and Recommendations Facebook group in December 2018, which now has over 700 members from all over the world. The group is inclusive and aimed at every reader, no matter the books, authors or genre.
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