'Many books have altered my views about the big topics: politics, morality and even economics. But a key influence on my personal career aspirations was Winifred Holtby's South Riding. I was drawn to it by its range of characters and vivid picture of a Yorkshire town in the 1930s.
The outstanding feature for me, however, is the character of Sarah Burton. Here is a lively picture of a woman who is determined to succeed - and on her own terms. To raise the standards of her girls' school, she has to tackle management issues, plead with the governors for better facilities and overcome the indifference to women's education from parents and the girls themselves.
The book also has powers of description so intense that I often remember it as a film. But it is the depiction of a capable and independent woman, about whom a main character says 'I wouldn't miss quarrelling with her for a great deal', that changed my own idea of what was personally possible.'