WHAT BOOK would Sarah Moss bring to a desert island?

  • Sarah Moss is currently reading Miriam Toews’s new novel, Fight Night 
  • Author would take Amitav Ghosh’s Sea Of Poppies trilogy to a desert island
  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome gave her the first taste of the reading bug. 

. . . Are you reading this now?

I was delighted to receive a proof of Miriam Toews’s new novel, Fight Night. Her work is always funny, clever, moving, and beautifully written.

Fight Night is about a little boy, her mother, and an elderly grandmother who deal with poverty, insecurity, and major life events.

I’ve been reading Claire Keegan’s backlist after enjoying her new novel, Small Things Like These, which is about a coal merchant in a small town in Ireland at Christmas in the 1980s who encounters the convent-run institution for unfortunate women that the rest of the community is ignoring.

Sarah Moss (pictured) would take a selection of books to a desert island including Amitav Ghosh's Sea Of Poppies trilogy

Sarah Moss (pictured), would take a selection book to a desert Island, including Amitav Gosh’s Sea Of Poppies trilogy.

It’s written with love and understanding as well as sorrow, and now I’m admiring her short stories. I loved Sarah Hall’s Burntcoat, which is dark and beautiful.

. . . Would you go to a deserted island?

As I take two books for the bus ride into town, I’m not going to a desert island with only one. I’ll have Amitav Ghosh’s Sea Of Poppies trilogy, which is reassuringly long and gloriously wide-ranging and would keep my troubles in proportion; any of Kathleen Jamie’s essay collections, to remind me how to keep looking at the world with precision, curiosity and joy; and How To Eat by Nigella Lawson for comfort when I’m lonely and homesick.

. . . What was it that first gave you the reading bug.

Sarah would take How To Eat by Nigella Lawson (pictured) to a desert island

Sarah would like to take How To Eat by Nigella (pictured) to a desert Island 

Arthur Ransome: Swallows and Amazons I was an outdoor child — though not always by choice — and I knew and loved the landscapes where the series is set.

I re-read them with my children and they are classics with strong, likeable, flawed characters, a family dynamic that’s in some ways more interesting to me as an adult (John has some serious issues with the patriarchy) and a satisfying interest in fruit cake and pork pies. I fell into Victorian fiction very early, because there was a lot of it in the house and I’ve always been a fast and voracious reader, but I’m not sure it did me any good as a teenager — all those clever girls learning to control every impulse and desire to be rewarded by marriage at a disturbingly young age.

. . . left you cold?

It’s possible to be cold! There are many books I admire for their craft or innovation but wouldn’t read in the bath: Karl Ove Knausgaard, later Marilynne Robinson, W.G. Sebald. That said, there’s a nostalgic tendency in a lot of contemporary British nature writing that I find very tedious.

The Fell by Sarah Moss is published by Picador next week at £14.99.