Am I the only person who while enjoying Desert Island Discs would actually be more interested listening to Desert Island Books? Not a programme limited to only taking six books of course, being allowed that few on an island surely counts as a cruel and unnatural maroonment and must be included somewhere in the small print of the Human Rights Act. I’d insist on a large bookcase at the very least, or being allowed to count The Collected Works of PG Wodehouse as one book, even I could make over 90 books last a while.
But would people be honest in their selections, or would it end up like those ‘Book Of The Year’ selections where you get the feeling that the celebs asked to name their three favourite authors are too embarrassed to name Lee Child, Marian Keyes and Dan Brown? It might sound very intellectual to say that you’ll take the whole of Proust but you wouldn’t know how long you’d be stuck on the island before you could flag down a handy passing steamer, and frankly do you want to have to read about Proust’s obsession with madelaines again and again and again? And maybe again and again if you’re unlucky and your island isn’t on one of the more populated shipping lanes.
The truth is that my desert island bookcase would be almost entirely populated with books that make me laugh and would probably not have many of the books that have enthralled me the most. I adored War and Peace when I read it at 15 in one week (when I should have been revising for my mocks which might explain my results), still think Natasha is one of the most engaging heroines ever and have absolutely no desire to go back to it. But I could read E F Delafield’s Diary Of A Provincial Lady again and again (and have).
I’d love to be able to write a detailed review of The Diary Of A Provincial Lady, with quotes and showing why this story of a middle class woman in the 1930’s juggling her cook, Mademoiselle who looks after the five year old daughter of the house, Robert her husband (typical man, some might say stereotypical and therefore very funny), Our Vicar’s Wife who never knows when to leave and Lady B, Robert’s employer who is as autocratic and tactless as Lady Catherine de Bourgh is so absolutely enchanting. But I can’t. Desi, the younger of our two Dalmatians, was keen on literature as a puppy and eagerly swallowed up several of my books includng The Provincial Lady.
So you’ll have to take my word for it that The Diary of a Provincial Lady is still as funny as it was when it first started appearing in serial form in Time and Tide which no doubt explains why it’s never been out of print. The are several further books about the Provincial Lady which don’t have quite the freshness of the original but are still delightful.
I’m going to get and read Diary of a Provincial Lady – great recommendation, thanks. Agree about Wodehouse too. What a genius.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did – and no doubt will again once I’ve got around to replacing my copy.
Indeed a wonderful idea…but I am sure people would probably read the latest MAN Booker prize list before even daring to enter a single book. The concept would be ragged with snobbism rather than sheer good reads.
I adore Wodehouse but also E Waugh…Scoop, Decline & Fall would be on my list as would some obscure kiwi literature from my childhood, Bridget Jones and Julia Child!
Your post made me really think about what makes me laugh, think and tick.
Many thanks for such a thinking post
Ps what about which men would desperate housewives take to a desert island..”desert island chaps” ??
I think I’d just take Hugh Jackman and have done with it.
I presume as a keen cook you’d take Mastering The Art of French Cooking and not My Life In France? I once went to a health farm where they put you on hot water and lemon for five daays aand read my way through Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book which had just come out. It’s still one of my favourites.
The books I have enjoyed most are the ones I have read again and again: they range from classics to chic lit. They are the ones that would accompany me to any desert island. No good taking the latest Booker winner if you decide you hate it – you might be there for a long time.
I might have to confess to one or two chick lits in later posts…
Thanks for the recommendation. I must read the provincial lady’s diary, it sounds like something I’d enjoy. When I get marooned on a desert island, I’d like to have six Kindles with me (solar powered, of course), each loaded with 3,000 books. Or would that be cheating? Otherwise the collected stories of W Somerset Maugham would be essential, and the collection Barbara Vine, and the collected Lee Child, and Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series (collected, of course). And a HUGE crossword puzzle book. That still leaves one more, about which I will have a think. I hope I don’t sound greedy. 😀
Is it possible to be greedy where books are concerned? I can’t do crosswords, my mind doesn’t do anagrams at all, but (hangs head in embarrassment) I’m pretty good at Sudoko.
I admire anybody who can do Sudoko. I tried one once, couldn’t make head or tail of it. Worse than Rubik’s cube. 🙂
Jackie (Farm Lane Books) said:
I’d be much more interested in a desert island books too. There was a TV program along those lines hosted by Anne Robinson earlier this year and it was wonderful to see which books everyone selected. I really hope that they bring it back again next year.
PS. I don’t think I’ve been to your blog before, but you’re writing is very engaging so I’ve subscribed. *heads off to browe your previous posts*
Thanks for subscribing, I’ve been visiting your blog for over a year but I’m clueless about how to subscribe unless it’s a wordpress blog so i have to do it the long way round.
Helen Devries said:
Tell me about it!
Something decried as rubbish when ordered is claimed as soon as the box of books is opened….