For my last guest edition of Desert Island Books for 2020, I am delighted to welcome to the blog, author Nicola Pryce. Let’s see what literary choices she has made to accompany her.
Judging by lockdown, Julie, I’m not going to be any good on this desert island of yours, so I’m going for four books with uplifting characters who would be good company if I start to wobble. The fifth is a fascinating 1950’s classic which I think would benefit from repeated readings. Interestingly, three of the books are ones I’ve recently read – not the books I first thought I would choose. Maybe that has something to do with 2020 ending and the importance of embracing the new.
Book One – The World of Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne
Meet the best bear in all the world for the first time in Winnie-the-Pooh, where he gets into a tight place, nearly catches a Woozle and heads off on an ‘expotition’ to the North Pole with the other animals. The adventures continue in The House at Pooh Corner, where Pooh meets the irrepressible Tigger for the first time, learns to play Poohsticks and sets a trap for a Heffalump.
This all-time favourite classic, the go-to, warm, uplifting, laugh out-loud, sad, poignant, comforting book from my childhood has to take first place. Akin to my security blanket, it will remind me of my childhood, my children, and my grandchildren. I almost know it by heart and can still quite easily become tearful reading it. Uplifting and caring, it will definitely keep me buoyant.
Book Two – The Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins
In affairs of the heart the race is not necessarily won by the swift or the fair.
Imogen, the beautiful and much younger wife of distinguished barrister Evelyn Gresham, is facing the greatest challenge of her married life. Their neighbour Blanche Silcox, competent, middle-aged and ungainly – the very opposite of Imogen – seems to be vying for Evelyn’s attention. And to Imogen’s increasing disbelief, she may be succeeding.
I’ve chosen this beautifully written novel, published in 1954, because it evokes such complex emotions. Set in the country houses of the privileged upper-class, it is the story of how a dispirited young wife, Imogen – a once glamorous, almost trophy wife – watches her older barrister husband, Evelyn Gresham, fall under the spell of a middle-aged, rather masculine, country neighbour, Blanche Silcox. Downtrodden, sensitive, and lacking in confidence, Imogen slowly watches her marriage unravel, yet by the end of the book we are left wondering who of the two women is the tortoise, and who the hare.
I loved this book and believe it will stand the test of being re-read… and re-read …
Book Three – The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.
Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.
The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.
This inspirational memoir will be just what I need if I’m missing home comforts. It’s a humbling read of a worst-case scenario – financial ruin and the diagnosis of a terminal illness. Gaynor and her husband, Moth, face homelessness. Penniless, they buy inadequate camping gear and begin their long-distance walk along the South West Coast Path, facing what the sea and sky throws at them. Their courage and inner strength see them stumble through each day until an unexpected door opens and they find their hardship has helped to heal them. Definitely one to read for courage and endurance.
Book Four – The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
The greatest love story is the one you least expect . . .
Alice Wright doesn’t love her new American husband.
Nor her domineering father-in-law or the judgmental townsfolk of Baileyville, Kentucky.
Stifled and misunderstood, she yearns for escape and finds it in defiant Margery O’Hare and the sisterhood bringing books to the isolated and vulnerable.
But when her father-in-law and the town turn against them, Alice fears the freedom, friendship and the new love she’s found will be lost . . .
Here’s another book full of endurance and fighting spirit for my stay on the island. If I think I have it hard, then reading this book will remind me others have had it just as bad. I loved this book. Based in the 1930’s on the true horseback library, it tells the story of a group of resilient women in Kentucky who start a library and deliver books on horseback to the isolated women living in the wilderness. The freezing mountains, appalling conditions, and treacherous paths they take are brilliantly evoked, and the undercurrents running through this book make it multi-layered and hard to put down. Definitely a book about endurance and resilience.
Book Five – Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield
Some say the river drowned her…Some say it brought her back to life
On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames, the regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open and in steps an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a child.
Hours later, the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.
Is it a miracle?
Is it magic?
And who does the little girl belong to?
My book of 2020 – a cracker of a read. Set on the River Thames in late 1800’s it is full of the stories weaved by the communities living along the water’s edge. Packed with menace, it has a sinister mystery at its heart, but also a wonderfully warm and touching love story. I’ve chosen to take this with me because of the rhythm of the story telling. It’s beautifully written, evocative, and packed with lovely characters – especially Robert Armstrong whose warmth and humanity is just the inspiration I will need to keep me going on this desert island.
My luxury item
A solar- powered laptop, please Julie, so I can write. It would be terrible to have ideas for a novel and not be able to get the book down!
About Nicola Pryce
Nicola Pryce trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. She loves literature and history and has an Open University degree in Humanities. She is a qualified adult literacy support volunteer and lives with her husband in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. She and her husband love sailing and together they sail the south coast of Cornwall in search of adventure. If she isn’t writing or gardening, you’ll find her scrubbing decks somewhere.
Pengelly’s Daughter is her first novel, then The Captain’s Girl, The Cornish Dressmaker, and The Cornish Lady. A Cornish Betrothal was published in November.
Nicola is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Historical Writers’ Association.
Nicola’s latest book, A Cornish Betrothal, is the fifth book in her series set in eighteenth-century Cornwall, and you can buy a copy here.
Eighteen months have passed since Midshipman Edmund Melville was declared missing, presumed dead, and Amelia Carew has mended her heart and fallen in love with a young physician, Luke Bohenna. But, on her twenty-fifth birthday, Amelia suddenly receives a letter from Edmund announcing his imminent return. In a state of shock, devastated that she now loves Luke so passionately, she is torn between the two.
When Edmund returns, it is clear that his time away has changed him – he wears scars both mental and physical. Amelia, however, is determined to nurse him back to health and honour his heroic actions in the Navy by renouncing Luke.
But soon, Amelia begins to question what really happened to Edmund while he was missing. As the threads of truth slip through her fingers, she doesn’t know who to turn to: Edmund, or Luke?
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