“Desert Island Discs is on the radio. I think there should be a Desert Island Books where the guest tells us which books he/she would take … “
As soon as I read those words in Ann Kelly’s The Bower Bird I began to wonder what books I would take.
It wasn’t easy. Some beloved authors – including Thomas Hardy, Margery Sharp, George Eliot, Sarah Waters, Wilkie Collins – had to be dismissed because I couldn’t pick just one book from many wonderful works, and because I knew that whichever one I took I would regret leaving another behind.
And I wanted books that could give me everything – beautiful prose, engaging characters, wonderful stories, thought-provoking ideas ….
Books to engage all of my emotions, and books to make me think and ask questions.
Books with so much to offer that I could happily read them over and over again.
And now, finally, I think I have my list:
South Riding by Winifred Holtby
The perfect picture of a community and the people who make it. Such wonderful characters, such wonderful ideas and emotions, and a green Virago Modern Classic to remind me of so many others.
Skallagrig by William Horwood
If I could take just one book, this would be the one. A book that speaks to me personally and says all that needs to be said about what makes us human.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
My favourite Brontë sister, and a wonderful Victorian novel that I know I could read over and over again.
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
It’s a long time since I read this one, but I still remember it so well. I can’t quite explain what makes it so special, I just know that it is, and that I want to take it with me to read again.
Love in the Sun by Leo Walmsley
I did wonder whether I should take a Cornish book. Would reading of Cornwall allow me to travel home in my head or would it just make me homesick? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that Love in the Sun is just too lovely to leave behind.
The Gormenghast Books by Mervyn Peake
When I want to escape sun and sand, this is the book that will take me into a completely different world. To wander down dark castle corridors and watch extraordinary stories unfolding …
Tea With Mr Rochester by Frances Towers
Perfect short stories take me back to an England that has long since gone, but that I have visited so many times in books. And a Persephone book so I have the bookmark, the endpapers, the sheer beauty of the book as an object to enjoy.
The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman
I would definitely want a big historical novel, and this is definitely the right one to take. The first one I read, the book that made me realise that history can be questioned, and a book so rich in detail that I could lose myself for days and days ….
Yes, I think that those eight books and I could live happily together for a long, long time.
And now please tell me, how would you pick your desert island books? Which ones would you take?