Desert Island Books… with Clare Marchant

Desert Island Books

This is the feature where I ask a member of the bookish community – be it fellow blogger, author, publisher, blog tour organiser, bookseller or anyone else remotely interested in books – to choose the five books they would like to have with them were they to be stranded alone on a desert island, forced to read them in perpetuity (or until they get rescued at least).

This week the choices belong to author, Clare Marchant.

Book OneLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott

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Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth – four “little women” enduring hardships and enjoying adventures in Civil War New England The charming story of the March sisters, Little Women has been adored by generations. Readers have rooted for Laurie in his pursuit of Jo’s hand, cried over little Beth’s death, and dreamed of traveling through Europe with old Aunt March and Amy. Future writers have found inspiration in Jo’s devotion to her writing. In this simple, enthralling tale, both parts of which are included here, Louisa May Alcott has created four of American literature’s most beloved women.

This book is such a classic, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere and not be able to read it. When I was a teenager, I read it so often I could recite whole tracts of it verbatim (I was probably very annoying!). There is just nothing not to love about it, each of the characters is so finely drawn and the journey that the whole family takes is wonderful as the reader watches their lives unfold. Every time I read it, I find something else to love about it; the cast and their family dynamics, their strengths and flaws which are still as relevant today as it was when it was written.

Book TwoThe Kings General by Daphne du Maurier

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Inspired by a grisly discovery in the nineteenth century, The King’s General was the first of du Maurier’s novels to be written at Menabilly, the model for Manderley in Rebecca.

Set in the seventeenth century, it tells the story of a country and a family riven by civil war, and features one of fiction’s most original heroines. Honor Harris is only eighteen when she first meets Richard Grenvile, proud, reckless – and utterly captivating. But following a riding accident, Honor must reconcile herself to a life alone.

As Richard rises through the ranks of the army, marries and makes enemies, Honor remains true to him, and finally discovers the secret of Menabilly…

I went through a phase in my late teens of reading everything that Du Maurier had written and, although I loved the classics, Jamaica Inn, Rebecca and Frenchman’s Creek, this was the book that I just adored. In my opinion this is Du Maurier at her finest. It’s set against the background of the English civil war (no surprise that it’s a historical romance, this genre has always featured very highly in my reading choices!) and although the love story is unconventional, it is no less captivating and poignant.  

The story opens with eighteen-year-old Honor Harris falling in love with the handsome Richard Grenville, but within the first couple of pages she has a riding accident which results in her being unable to walk. The reader is left wondering how these two people can have any sort of relationship, but the love between them never dies. On the one hand their story is heart-breaking, and yet it is enthralling at the same time. And yes, if anyone is wondering, it is no coincidence that Richard Grenville’s name is very similar to Greville in The Secrets of Saffron Hall!

Book ThreeAll Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

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A world of witches, daemons and vampires.
A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future.
Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it.

A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES. SHADOW OF NIGHT. THE BOOK OF LIFE.

As this is a trilogy and possibly a little bit of a cheat, (hmmm, definitely a cheat, but I’ll let you off!) I have double checked that the book can be purchased in one volume (!). I’m not a huge fan of vampire and witch books but I’d heard such great things about this that I decided to give it a go and I’m so pleased that I did. 

At the heart of the book is a forbidden romance (and it’s never a good idea to cross a vampire or a witch as Diana and Matthew soon discover) but it’s so much more as the book travels across Europe, from modern day Oxford and rural France, to Renaissance London and Prague. The litany of real characters from the sixteenth century anchors the story and prevents it from becoming excessively fantastical and even though I know the outcome I always read it holding my breath, completely engrossed. It’s exciting and addictive, if I were stuck on a desert island for any length of time, I would really want this book to be with me to transport me to other places.

Book FourRiders by Jilly Cooper

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Set against the glorious Cotswold countryside, Riders offers an intoxicating blend of swooning romance, adventure and hilarious high jinks.

Brooding hero Jake Lovell, under whose magic hands even the most difficult horse or woman is charmed, is driven by his loathing of the dashing darling of the show ring, Rupert Campbell-Black. Having pinched each other’s horses and drunk their way around the capitals of Europe, the feud between the two men finally erupts with devastating consequences at the Los Angeles Olympics . . .

A classic bestseller, Riders takes the lid off international show jumping, a sport where the brave horses are almost human, but the humans behave like animals.

Who doesn’t love a bit of Jilly Cooper?! In between my love for historical fiction when I was a bookworm teenager, I also became addicted to these brilliant, mad, glorious ‘bonkbuster’ romances. It was really difficult to choose just one to take to a desert island so I decided to go with the one where it all started, the book that introduces the reader to Rutshire where everyone spends their time riding, hunting and jumping – both on horses as well as in and out of bed with each other. The book takes the reader on a chaotic journey from rural Cotswolds to the Los Angeles Olympic games as Rupert Campbell Black feuds with his adversary Jake Lovell, an underdog that refuses to pander to Rupert’s huge ego.  Like almost every other female in the 1980’s I fell in love with Rupert (a rake if ever there was one!) and even though the book has dated  – these days people having to use a landline and send real letters makes me stop for a moment – it is still a delightful read.

Book FiveThe Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

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Can you go a little faster? Can you run?

Long ago, at a time in history that never happened, England was overrun with wolves. But as Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia discover, real danger often lies closer to home. Their new governess, Miss Slighcarp, doesn’t seem at all nice. She shuts Bonnie in a cupboard, fires the faithful servants and sends the cousins far away from Willoughby Chase to a place they will never be found. Can Bonnie and Sylvia outwit the wicked Miss Slighcarp and her network of criminals, forgers and snitches?

Yes, another book from my past. If I was stuck on an island on my own, I would want books that are a comfort to me and for the most part these are books that I have read over many years, time and time again.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase has everything that I could want in a book and although it was written for children, it’s just as good to read as an adult. There are the classic elements of good prevailing over evil, the poor, quiet mousy Sylvia who moves from town to live with her feisty, rich and kind hearted cousin Bonnie, where they battle against a mean governess and her dubious accomplices. The action is all set against a backdrop of danger as their country estate is becoming overrun with wolves and the two girls have to depend on the kindness of a young man, Simon, to help them escape. Pure unadulterated excitement, my original paperback eventually fell apart I read it so often.

My luxury item:

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I do love listening to music, and I don’t think I would fare well being somewhere as quiet as a desert island on my own. So, I would like to have my saxophone with me. I would also need all of my music books, mostly because it has been quite a long time since I’ve found time to play it and I’m now very rusty. But having no one close by to object to the awful sounds I make whilst practising, would be the perfect opportunity to resume my love of playing. And I’m thinking, it could also double up as a distress signal if I were to see a boat on the horizon – although if they hear me, they may just choose to continue their journey rather than get any closer to the racket! 

About Clare Marchant:

My debut novel, The Secrets of Saffron Hall was published on 6 August. I don’t think it will come as a surprise that having spent my life reading a lot of historical fiction, I wanted to write something set in an era that I love, Tudor England. Interweaved with Eleanor’s story is that of Amber’s in present day Norfolk, my home county and somewhere that I love. It wasn’t difficult to set a story amongst the history and ruined monasteries of this flat landscape beneath the wide, open skies. You can purchase The Secrets of Saffron Hall here. (I reviewed the book on the blog last month and you can find my review here.)

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1538
New bride Eleanor impresses her husband by growing saffron, a spice more valuable than gold. His reputation in Henry VIII’s court soars – but fame and fortune come at a price, for the king’s favour will not last forever…

2019
When Amber discovers an ancient book in her grandfather’s home at Saffron Hall, the contents reveal a dark secret from the past. As she investigates, so unravels a forgotten tragic story and a truth that lies much closer to home than she could have imagined…

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Growing up in Surrey, Clare always dreamed of being a writer. Instead, she followed a career in IT, before moving to Norfolk for a quieter life and re-training as a jeweller.

Now writing full time, she lives with her husband and the youngest two of her six children. Weekends are spent exploring local castles and monastic ruins, or visiting the nearby coast.

Connect with Clare:

Facebook: Clare Marchant Author

Twitter: @ClareMarchant1

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