Welcome to another instalment of Desert Island Books, where I transport some poor soul to a remote atoll with nothing for company except one luxury item and five books of their choosing, so they had better choose wisely – who knows how long they will be marooned! Today’s strandee is author, Angela Petch.
What fun to choose the books I’d have on a desert island… but I’m not brilliant at being totally alone, so I need to inject fun on this island.
Book One – Just William by Richmal Crompton
Meet everyone’s favourite troublemaker!
In Richmal Compton’s Just William, the Outlaws plan a day of non-stop adventure. The only problem is that William is meant to be babysitting. But William won’t let that stop him having fun with his gang – he’ll just bring the baby along!
There is only one William. This tousle-headed, snub-nosed, hearty, loveable imp of mischief has been harassing his unfortunate family and delighting his hundreds of thousands of admirers since 1922.
I’m sure that there will be times when I need to laugh, so please may I have Just William by Richmal Crompton? I’ve loved these stories about an eleven-year old lovable rogue since I was very little and they still appeal. The first story was written in 1919 and intended for an adult audience. Crompton was a teacher for a while and I can imagine her observing her pupils in the classroom and jotting notes for later. I love Martin Jarvis’s narrations of her stories, but my battered 1930 edition, with its thick pages and wonderful pen and ink illustrations by Thomas Henry will comfort me.
John Seymour has inspired thousands to make more responsible, enriching, and eco-friendly choices with his advice on living sustainably. The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency offers step-by-step instructions on everything from chopping trees to harnessing solar power; from growing your own vegetables and fruit and vegetables, and preserving and pickling your harvest, to baking bread, brewing beer, and making cheese. Seymour shows you how to live off the land, running your own smallholding or homestead, keeping chickens, and raising (and butchering) livestock.
While we aren’t all be able to move to the countryside, we can appreciate the importance of Seymour’s message, as he shows us the value of living within our means and making the most of what we have to hand using skills that have been handed down through generations.
With refreshed, retro-style illustrations and a brand-new foreword by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, this new edition of Seymour’s classic title is a balm for anyone who has ever sought solace away from the madness of modern life.
I’ll need practical advice to help me survive and fill my time with projects. When I was twenty-five and two weeks married, we worked in Tanzania for three years. I knew nothing about running a house and in those days (the 70s), there was very little in the shops. I had to learn to make cheese, chop up a whole pig that I bought at the local prison, make curtains… umpteen things. A great help was my copy of The Complete book of Self-Sufficiency: The classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers by John Seymour. I think there is a newer edition out. Maybe I could harness natural energy and learn how to make paper out of leaves, so that I could write.
Book Three – The Dress by Sophie Nicholls
Meet Ella and her mother Fabia Moreno who arrive in York, one cold January day, to set up their vintage dress shop.
The flamboyant Fabia wants to sell beautiful dresses to nice people and move on from her difficult past. Ella just wants to fit in. But not everyone is on their side.
Will Fabia overcome the prejudices she encounters? What’s the dark secret she’s hiding? And do the silk linings and concealed seams of her dresses contain real spells or is this all just ‘everyday magic’?
Among the leopard-print shoes, tea-gowns and costume jewellery in Fabia’s shop are many different stories – and the story of one particular dress.
The last book that I read and fell in love with is The Dress by Sophie Nicholls and this would be an ideal escapist book. I love vintage shops and old clothes, like Fabia the owner of a dress shop. The story is feel-good and full of magic. Fabia sews mindfulness messages within the linings of the clothes she sells and I have copied a couple and pinned them on my noticeboard. This charming book would help lift my spirits.
366 poems, one for each day of the year (including leap years). Chosen for their narrative, resonance and rhythm, these are poems to learn by heart or treasure and enjoy. Poets included range from Yeats, Shakespeare, Housman and Kipling, to contemporary poets such as Wendy Cope, Carol Ann Duffy, Maya Angelou and Thom Gunn.
I love poetry. Favourite lines are a comfort but there are so many poems still to discover. Please could I have Poem for the Day, Volume One with a foreword by Wendy Cope? There are 366 poems in here to delight. I could learn a poem every now and again and stand on a rock and recite the words to the wind and the waves. That would help keep my brain busy after the physical activity of foraging and building my log cabin. “Happy the man, and happy he alone, He who can call today his own…” John Dryden (17th century). I’d have to learn how to be happy with myself on a desert island, wouldn’t I?
Book Five – A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman
Marvellous Ways is eighty-nine years old and has lived alone in a remote Cornish creek for nearly all her life. Lately she’s taken to spending her days sitting on a mooring stone by the river with a telescope. She’s waiting for something – she’s not sure what, but she’ll know it when she sees it.
Drake is a young soldier left reeling by the Second World War. When his promise to fulfil a dying man’s last wish sees him wash up in Marvellous’ creek, broken in body and spirit, the old woman comes to his aid.
A Year of Marvellous Ways is a glorious, life-affirming story about the magic in everyday life and the pull of the sea, the healing powers of storytelling and sloe gin, love and death and how we carry on when grief comes snapping at our heels.
This book is all about the magic of everyday life. A book to be read slowly, digesting the pages little by little: something I could dip in and taste every now and again, like rich chocolate. The heroine’s name is Marvellous Ways (how cool is that?). She’s eighty-nine and has lived on her own in a remote Cornish creek all her life. I reckon I could learn patience and resourcefulness from reading this book over and over and remind myself of how beautiful words can be when they are woven together so brilliantly.
My luxury item
For my luxury item: I hope you won’t think I’m being greedy, but you would save my life if I could have a wind-up radio cranked by the sun. I know of one that comes with a flashlight and cell phone for emergency and outdoor use. I love listening to the radio more than watching television and it would be a comfort to hear voices and music. I could sing and dance and pretend I was at the theatre while listening to plays (eating home made sweets made from dates that I discovered on one of my explorations on the island).
Thank you so much for inviting me and now I must get back to my WIP. I wonder if a desert island is going to creep into one of my chapters 😉
About Angela Petch
Published by Bookouture, Angela Petch is an award winning writer of fiction – and the occasional poem.
Every summer she moves to Tuscany for six months where she and her husband own a renovated watermill which they let out. When not exploring their unspoilt corner of the Apennines, she disappears to her writing desk at the top of a converted stable. In her Italian handbag or hiking rucksack she always makes sure to store notebook and pen to jot down ideas.
The winter months are spent in Sussex where most of her family live. When Angela’s not helping out with grandchildren, she catches up with writer friends.
Angela’s gripping, WWII, Tuscan novels are published by Bookouture. While her novel, Mavis and Dot, was self-published and tells of the frolics and foibles of two best-friends who live by the seaside. Angela also writes short stories published in Prima and People’s Friend.
Angela’s latest book, The Tuscan House, will be published on 7 April and you can buy a copy here.
Corbello, Italy, 1947. A woman and a little boy stagger into the ruins of an old house deep in the forest, wild roses overwhelming the crumbling terracotta walls. Since the war, nowhere has been safe. But they both freeze in shock when a voice calls out from the shadows…
For young mother Fosca Sentino, accepting refuge from ex-British soldier Richard – in Tuscany to escape his tragic past – is the only way to keep her little family safe. She once risked everything to spy on Nazi commanders and pass secret information to the resistenza. But after a heartbreaking betrayal, Fosca’s best friend Simonetta disappeared without trace. The whole community was torn apart, and now Fosca and her son are outcasts.
Wary of this handsome stranger at first, Fosca slowly starts to feel safe as she watches him play with her son in the overgrown orchard. But her fragile peace is shattered the moment a silver brooch is found in the garden, and she recognises it as Simonetta’s…
Fosca has always suspected that another member of the resistenza betrayed her. With Richard by her side, she must find out if Simonetta is still alive, and clear her own name. But how did the brooch end up at the house? And with a traitor hiding in the village, willing to do anything to keep this secret buried, has Fosca put herself and her young son in terrible danger?
Connect with Angela:
Facebook: Angela Petch Author