The moment you’ve been eagerly awaiting… drumroll please… five more of my desert island books. Ok, so maybe you haven’t been eagerly awaiting this moment. Maybe you just stumbled on this blog by accident looking for dessert recipes. Ah well, I’m posting them anyway…
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The first time I read this book, aged about fourteen, I stayed up the entire night (and I’m not exaggerating) to finish it. It’s long, like all of Dickens’ tomes, and takes a fair bit of commitment before you start it, but I’ve still managed to read it a couple more times since. And if I’m marooned, then at least with books this long I’ll never get bored. Most people will be able to quote the iconic opening line (I say line, some might call it a novella). Most people will be able to quote the closing line too:
‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’
Unless you’re like me, because I’m usually too distraught to be able to focus on the closing line! Either way, you can’t deny that the man knows how to tell a story.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
I know, I know, another Dickens. At uni I had a reputation for being slightly odd as the only girl who actually read them for fun. I adore Oliver, truly, and maybe, if I think really hard, I can trace my love affair with young adult protagonists back to him. Everyone knows this story, even people who’ve never picked up a book, even people who’ve never seen one of the hundreds of adaptations, and this is a testament to the endurance of the tale and the vividness of the creation.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The trouble with this choice is that, although I love the book and would happily read it forever, I adore the film and have watched it practically every six months since I can remember. Since the film is only a fraction of the complexity of the book, I forget things when I’m telling people about the book. The main difference, for those who don’t know, is that while the film is a story within a story, the book is a story within a story within a story. The addition of a dysfunctional narrator undergoing some kind of mid-life crisis whilst searching for an elusive copy of his favourite book adds another, sharper, more contemporary layer. But, for all that, you still have to love Inigo, the vengeance obsessed swordsman, the best.
Island by Jane Rogers
This book, aside from being fantastic, has special meaning for me. I make no secret of my obsession with BBC’s Merlin, and the recent film adaptation of this book starred one Colin Morgan, who plays Merlin in the TV show. I was lucky enough to attend the premiere in Glasgow and to meet Colin and the film’s producers. Sad as I am, I took my well-loved copy of Island along. Now it’s even more precious, containing the autographs of Colin and the film’s producer/director/screenwriter. I take it to bed every night and hug it as I sleep. The book is a dark tale of one young woman’s unravelling mind. She travels to a remote Scottish island to track down the mother who abandoned her to a life in care, with the intentions of killing her in order to exact revenge. What she finds on the island is not only her mother, but a strange half-brother who shows her a new way of viewing the world. While the ending is far from happy, its uplifting message, that salvation is possible for anyone, stays with you weeks after you’ve closed the book.
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
I love this series, except for the first book, which drives me insane! Luckily, I began reading the Dark is Rising first (the book for which the series is named) and, in my opinion, this is the best one. It can be read as a standalone with no problem. It’s full of ancient British mythology and magic, and a great protagonist in Will Stanton. I just wish someone had done a Harry Potter with it, instead of that awful film version that we ended up with; it could have been the start of a franchise to rival the best of them.