After reading and loving House of Trelawney when it was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2016, I was delighted when its writer – filmmaker, writer, and philanthropist – Hannah Rothschild approved of my Desert Island Books series to participate. From the literary classic she was given on her fifteenth birthday to the tome that made her appreciate nature more than ever, read on to find out which eight books Hannah would take to the sandy shores of a desert island …
So we live now on Anthony Trollope
Augustus Melmotte, who is sure to be the greatest villain in literature, comes with loads of fake stocks and a beautiful daughter. He almost succeeds, but when it comes down to it, his comeuppance is gloomy, pathetic, and very pleasant.
Buy The Way We Live Now at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
The Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante
When I discovered these books later than most, I read them back to back and only paused / slept of absolute necessity. It tells the story of two friends from childhood to middle age and how fate, choice and random events affect their lives. Husbands, lovers, families and children are all actors on a stage that is dominated by a central, extraordinary and destructive friendship between women.
Buy The Neapolitan Series at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon, or Amazon AU.
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
A completely absurd but brilliant case of confusion: a newspaper sends its nature correspondent (the wrong man named Boot) about an African civil war. This quick, easy, and deadly novel impales journalists and the privileged.
Buy Scoop at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
A present from my grandmother for my fifteenth birthday and much appreciated ever since. Mitford’s satire tells the loosely autobiographical story of a charming and crazy aristocratic family.
Buy The Pursuit of Love at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
One-line synopsis: the story of a charming, beautiful woman who lives out of passion and then dies. It should be required reading for anyone who wants to learn something about themselves or others – on each page Tolstoy reveals the weaknesses and peculiarities of human behavior.
Buy Anna Karenina at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
The Richard Powers Overstory
Nine Americans of different origins come together to save a forest. This extraordinary novel changed my view of nature. I will never again pass a large tree without uttering a quiet but heartfelt evocation of thanks, gratitude and astonishment. Nor will I take for granted the importance of trees to every aspect of our ecosystem and our duty to protect them.
Buy The Overstory at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
Three wishes from Baroness Nica de Koenigswater
My great-aunt, the subject of my biography, The Baroness, took wonderful Polaroid photos of the musicians and friends she made in New York’s golden era of jazz. She challenged each of them to say their “Three Wishes” – the result is a charming, unexpected and insightful portrait of a time and place.
Black beauty by Anna Sewell
The first (but not the last) book to break my heart. Told by a horse in the first person, the young black beauty led an idyllic life as a foal, but led a brutal existence in later years pulling taxis in London. Written when Sewell was disabled and this was written when she was bedridden late in life. Filled with compassion, humor, and quite a bit of indignation, the author died five months after its inception, too early to see some of the laws governing the modification of horse-drawn vehicles.
Buy Black Beauty at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
Old filth by Jane Gardam
I love everything Gardam writes and this trilogy about an aging judge, Sir Edward Feathers, is especially tasty and very funny. With such precision she captures old age, snobbery and village life and manages to turn dry topics into juicy reading.
Buy Old Filth at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
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