It’s cold, wet and windy here in South Yorkshire today, summer is definitely over, so I could quite fancy a sojourn on a warm, tropical island myself right now. Unfortunately, it is not me being whisked away to a deserted island with five books to read at leisure today, but author… N S Ford. Let’s see what she has chosen to take with her.
Book One – Villette by Charlotte Bronte
Villette is the story of Lucy Snowe, who after an unspecified family disaster, travels from her native England to the fictional French-speaking city of Villette to teach at a girls’ school, where she is drawn into adventure and romance.
Villette by Charlotte Brontë. Probably my favourite 19th century classic, Vilette is even superior to Jane Eyre, in my opinion. The book is narrated by Lucy Snowe, a school teacher who appears to be stoic and unromantic but who has a vivid inner life. There is romance, comedy, gothic horror, tragedy, all in one incredibly well-written novel. I’ve read it a few times – I’d be happy to read it many more times on the desert island! – and am always awed by Charlotte Brontë’s talent. She was 37 when Villette, her last novel, was published in 1853. Had she not died only 2 years later, who knows what more this brilliant writer could have achieved?
Book Two – Collected Poems by Philip Larkin
Since its publication in 1988, Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems has become essential reading on any poetry bookshelf. This new edition returns to Larkin’s own deliberate ordering of his poems, presenting, in their original sequence, his four published books: The North Ship, The Less Deceived, The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows. It also includes an appendix of poems that Larkin published in other places, from his juvenilia to his final years – some of which might have appeared in a late book, if he had lived.
Preserving everything that he published in his lifetime, this new Collected Poems returns the reader to the book Larkin might have intended: it is, for the first time, Larkin’s ‘own’ collected poems.
Collected Poems by Philip Larkin. I was first introduced to Larkin’s poetry at college, when I studied his collection High Windows and found that it really spoke to me. Some people dislike his poetry, as it can be depressing, but I prefer to read about real feelings, however uncomfortable they are. Larkin’s poems were published by Faber in a collected edition in 1988, with a 2nd edition in 2003. My absolute favourite poem is ‘Solar’ and indeed it’s about the sun, which will be very relevant to my desert island.
Book Three – The Other Side of the Sky by Arthur C. Clarke
The Other Side of the Sky presents a glimpse of our future: a future where reality is no longer contained in earthly dimensions, where man has learned to exist with the knowledge that he is not alone in the universe. These stories of other planets and galactic adventures show Arthur C Clarke at the peak of his powers: sometimes disturbing, always intriguing.
The Other Side of the Sky by Arthur C Clarke. I re-read this short story collection every few years and my old copy is falling apart! I ought to sellotape it together before taking it to the desert island. These 14 stories are wonderful examples of classic science fiction; funny, playful, sad, sinister, hopeful, suffused with lyrical wonder. They are amazingly prescient and were written well before the first human was launched into space. The most famous story in the collection is ‘The Nine Billion Names of God’. My highlights are ‘Out of the Sun’ and ‘The Star’. Again, we’re talking about the sun! And I should also have a clear view of the night sky from the desert island, perfect for pondering Arthur C Clarke’s themes.
Book Four – Little Women by Louise May Alcott
Meg – the sweet-tempered one. Jo – the smart one. Beth – the shy one. Amy – the sassy one.
Together they’re the March sisters. Their father is away at war and times are difficult, but the bond between the sisters is strong.
Through sisterly squabbles, happy times and sad, their four lives follow different paths, and that discover the growing up is sometimes very hard to do. . .
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Strangely enough, I didn’t much like this book when I was younger – perhaps I found it too moralistic – but I have grown to appreciate the wisdom in it. The characters feel like friends and they would keep me company on the island! I recently re-read the book, having treated myself to a new copy which included both volumes (the 2nd volume is sometimes called Good Wives – which wasn’t Alcott’s idea). As with The Beatles, everyone has to have a favourite March sister. I think Beth is underrated and she has a special place in my heart.
Put a cup of tea in your hand, and what else can you do but sit down? This wonderful new book is a celebration of that most British of life’s cornerstones: taking a break, putting your feet up and having a breather. There is, however, a third element that any perfect sit down requires and it is this: biscuits. As Nicey so rightly points out, a cup of tea without a biscuit is a missed opportunity. Finding the right biscuit for the right occasion is as much an art as it is a science, and it is a task that Nicey has selflessly worked on for most of his tea drinking life.
From dunking to the Digestive, the Iced Gem to the Garibaldi, everything you’ll ever need to know about biscuits is in this book, and quite a lot more besides. Is the Jaffa Cake a cake or a biscuit? And have Wagon Wheels really got smaller since your childhood, or have you just got bigger? Unstintingly researched, Nicey and Wifey’s Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down does exactly what it says on the biscuit tin. So go on. Take a weight off, put the kettle on, and enjoy.
Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down by Nicey and Wifey. The go-to book when I need cheering up! I last read it in early 2020 when the first lockdown was imminent and things were looking scary. Based on a website, which is now quite old in internet terms, this is a funny, quirky book about three traditional British past-times – drinking tea, sitting down and eating biscuits. When I’m on the island, sitting down (but lacking the tea and biscuits) it will be nice to have a reminder of home and to laugh for the hundredth time at the author’s rant about pink wafers.
My luxury item
Let’s ignore the practicalities of shipping an iron-framed 98-year-old upright piano to a desert island and of the humidity, sand, insects etc that will affect the piano once it’s there. Playing the piano is a great way to relax and enjoy music. I was taught up to Grade 5 but I didn’t maintain my skills, particularly once I’d left home and didn’t have anywhere to keep the instrument. However, I’ve had it in my home for a couple of years now and I try to practise almost every day, when time and family life allows. My favourite sheet music to play is Ludovico Einaudi, Depeche Mode and Radiohead.
About the Author
N S Ford is a book fanatic, blogger and cat lover who lives in the UK with her family. She has a First Class degree in English. When not reading or blogging, she juggles her writing time with parenting, working in heritage and playing the piano.
N S Ford’s debut novel, We Watch You, is out now and you can buy a copy here. I will be reviewing the book on the blog tomorrow.
FOUR FRIENDS. THREE ENEMIES. TWO TRAGEDIES. ONE TERRIBLE TRUTH.
A small English town is rocked by the disappearance of a local woman, Tina. As the search continues, someone is targeting her former best friends for revenge. Lauren, Jess, Claire. They all hide secrets. Who knows what they did? Who’s watching them? The truth is stranger and far more sinister than they can ever imagine.
A dark, twisty thriller which will grip you until the very last page.
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