Do writers like Nicci Gerrard, Victoria Connelly, Julie Myerson and Libby Purves love the books you adore? Find out here
- Credit: Archant
It was World Book Night this week. We asked some of our favourite local authors for the three books they’d most want on a desert island. Would you choose the ones they did?
Ruth Dugdall (former Suffolk social worker who writes dark psychological tales)
H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald: because I still have a few chapters to finish… The book is autobiographical and describes the fascinating process by which Helen tames her goshawk, Mabel. Helen has recently lost her father, and her decision to buy the hawk seems ill-judged but is ultimately life-changing. Lyrically describing the relationship between falconer and hawk, this novel is also an exploration of grief. Truly original.
Joan of Arc, by Helen Castor: Takes the story of the Maid of Orleans and breathes new life into the young woman who believed it was her destiny to lead an army to victory. Teenage readers who admire Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games) or Beatrice (Divergent) may like to discover a non-fiction teen warrior. Joan’s eventual fate is described with heart-rending detail.
The Dinner, by Herman Koch: A book I read in one sitting, it was so compulsive. Focuses on one meal, where two sets of parents meet to discuss their sons. The boys have jointly committed a crime, and the adults must decide what to do; the details of the crime and relationships are revealed slowly, as they eat their (very elaborate) meal. The shifts in tension are both swift and unexpected, and the simple structure is masterful.
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Nicci Gerrard (has a home near Hadleigh; novels include The Winter House and Missing Persons; also writes psychological thrillers with husband Sean)
Moominland Midwinter, by Tove Janssen: I read and loved the Moomin books as a child, and then read them again to my own children – over and over – and loved them even more. They are stories of great beauty and oddity, quaint and mystical. In Moominland Midwinter, Moomin wakes too early from hibernation and enters the unfamiliar winter world. “There are a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that’s a little shy and a little rum…”
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Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte: I read this first as a teenager and was bowled over by it – not just because it was so romantic (like the first, great, Mills and Boon), or so Gothic, but because of the voice of Jane, this plain, small, stubborn, unseen and passionate woman carrying a volcano beneath her calm surface.
My Antonia, by Willa Cather: Here’s a glorious, elegiac novel of hope and redemption narrated by a middle-aged man looking back at his childhood in Nebraska in the late nineteenth century and remembering his passionate friendship with Antonia. The descriptions of winter make you feel cold and those of spring give you hope. It traces the birth of a nation and takes ordinary, invisible people and makes them matter.
Julie Myerson; home at Southwold; known for dark novels, including Something Might Happen)
The Reef, by Edith Wharton: A lesser-known Wharton novel but, just like her very best, it’s complex, clever, sad, funny and unerringly honest in its dissection of American society, money, sex and love – and the terrible, often tragic, failure of men and women to understand each other.
Slaves of Solitude, by Patrick Hamilton: Hamilton writes about a group of men and women thrown together in a small-town boarding house during the second world war. Neither wholly comedy nor tragedy, it is actually one of the most pitch perfect – in terms of heart, emotional scope and pace – novels I’ve ever read. The protagonist Miss Roach is a triumphant and heart-breaking creation.
A Map of the World, by Jane Hamilton: A woman, looking after her best friend’s child, is distracted for a moment and the child drowns. That’s just the beginning of this harrowing novel and it doesn’t begin to prepare you for the drama to come. Hamilton takes her plot to really unexpected places and it’s the complete lack of sentimentality with which she unwraps her themes of guilt, friendship and betrayal that make this book so shakingly traumatic – and, in an odd way, beautiful.
Libby Purves (long-time east Suffolk resident, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Midweek, and author of books such as Love Songs and Lies, and Shadow Child)
The Once and Future King, by TH White: Because it is the most satisfying of epics, deepening as it goes on: a re-imagined Arthurian legend and a love letter to England.
Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons: Her spoof on overblown emotionalism contains everything a girl needs to know and got me through my teens
War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy: Because I might finally read it.
Sarah Foot (lives near Orford; novel Fragments was out in the spring)
South Riding, by Winifred Holtby: I’m forever dipping back into this novel as I love Holtby’s compassion for her rather flawed, but all too real, characters not quite coming up to the mark. She’s brilliant on how to bear your sorrows and failures, as well as enjoy moments of happiness.
Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Armin: I re-read this whenever I want cheering up as it’s such a happy novel.
Persuasion: I return again and again to Jane Austen because she’s such a genius at taking ordinary people and ordinary circumstances and turning them into great drama – who do I love, who should I love? And she’s funny!
Jon Canter (lives in the Aldeburgh area; author of books such as A Short Gentleman and used to be the principal writer for Lenny Henry)
Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace: This is a heartbreaking and brilliantly funny novel. It’s as maddening as it’s exhilarating; a novel about addiction that it is itself addictive.
Woodbrook, by David Thomson: A memoir of the author’s time as tutor to an Anglo-Irish family in County Roscommon. Thomson fell in love with a girl and a place and wrote about both with a kind of love-struck wonder that stays with you long after you’ve read it.
The Talented Mr Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith: The chill and precision of Highsmith’s prose spare you nothing. You can’t look away and you don’t want to. When you finish, have a shower.
Victoria Connelly (writer of romantic comedies; lives in the Stour Valley; new novel The Rose Girls is out in June)
The Darling Buds of May, by H E Bates: My favourite book. A short novel full of joy and warmth, it never fails to make me smile with its humorous portrayal of family life on a farm in the beautiful Kent countryside.
Village School, by Miss Read: I adore Miss Read’s Fairacre series and this is the first book which introduces readers to a cast of memorable characters who quickly begin to feel like family – even the irascible Mrs Pringle! The descriptions of the changing seasons are second to none. Fairacre truly is my happy place.
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen: Is this the most perfect love story ever written? Who can resist the wit and honesty of Elizabeth Bennet and the proud Mr Darcy, who is willing to change for the woman he loves? I also owe this book a huge debt for having inspired my own Austen Addicts series. I never tire of rereading it.
Amanda Hodgkinson (debut novel 22 Britannia Road was set in Ipswich)
Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson: The story of sisters Ruth and Lucille, who are raised by a succession of female relatives in a strange little house by a vast and mysterious lake. A stunning novel investigating the themes of home and love and loss.
Gilgamesh, by Joan London: Written in sparse, glittering prose, it tells the story of Edith, a young Australian woman who decides she must find the father of her child. In a stolen hat, with a little money and a lot of faith, she sets out with her young son, travelling from Australia to Armenia at the outbreak of the Second World War.
Any Human Heart, by William Boyd: This is the story of an Englishman called Logan Mountstuart, presented as his diaries. We start at his birth in 1906 and continue to his death in France, aged 85, in 1991. An utterly convincing portrayal of a man’s loves and life through the changing twentieth century and one of my all-time favourite books.
Meg Rosoff (has home on the Suffolk coast; How I Live Now was made into a film)
A High Wind in Jamaica, by Richard Hughes: I discovered this slim book quite recently and read it with joyous astonishment – it’s the funniest, darkest, wisest, most terrifyingly brilliant book about childhood that I’ve ever encountered.
Essays of E.B. White: No-one should go through life without reading E. B. White. These essays are quiet, wry, and stand up to repeated reading. “Here Is New York” is a classic love letter to New York City that hasn’t aged a day since he wrote it in 1949.
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel: Surely one of the greatest writers alive. I’m waiting with bated breath for the third of this series, and, if possible, I’d like to take all three with me and read them over and over again. She has single-handedly reinvented historical fiction.
Martin Newell (musician, song-writer, poet, author, man of Wivenhoe and EADT columnist)
The Collected Poems of A.E. Housman: The finest English poetry: rhyming, scanning and, technically, points-perfect. Deliciously wistful and very effective when used as a balm upon those wheals caused by homesickness.
London – The Biography, by Peter Ackroyd: An incredibly generous book. Each of its 76 chapters is a fascinating book on its own. No mere history, not even a history of London, but Ackroyd’s bundle of love letters to his birthplace.
The Diary of a Country Parson 1758-1802, by James Woodforde: The Rev James Woodforde lived just outside Norwich, liked his grub, his gentle card-games, his fishing, his brewing and his life. Unlike Pepys, he was unfamiliar with great affairs of state. For me, he’s the better diarist.
Saskia Sarginson (grew up in Rendlesham Forest and Woodbridge. New novel The Other Me is out now as an e.book and in paperback on August 13)
My Family And Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell: The autobiographical story of a boy (Durrell) who moves to a Greek island in the 1930s with his family and growing menagerie of animals. I first read it on a hot June day, lying in the garden when I should have been revising for my O-levels. The book transported me to Corfu. It made me howl with laughter. Even now, when I pick up the book, I can smell warm summer grass and remember the pleasure of my reading experience – along with a faint twinge of guilt.
Tales Of The City, by Armistead Maupin: I discovered this book when I was living in my first flat in London. The novel – about a group of friends living in San Francisco in the 1970s – is fast-paced, funny, eccentric and warm. The story of entwined city lives, told from multiple perspectives, seemed to offer an insight into the excitement and complications of moving away from home and starting out on my own.
If This Is A Man, by Primo Levi: I read this about 10 years ago. It has haunted me ever since. Levi was one of only two survivors of 650 people sent to Auschwitz on February, 22, 1944. Although he chronicles the horrors of the concentration camp, he does it with intelligence and humanity. His courage and passion is incredibly inspiring and uplifting. I lent this book to my eldest son when he was trying to decide what degree subject to study. After reading it, he chose to do philosophy, and has never looked back.