Which book would Sophie Dahl choose to take on a desert island with her?

  • Sophie Dahl is reading The Mermaid Of Black Conch by Monique Roffey 
  • Author would take The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman to a desert island 
  • Sophie claims that the Peter and Jane novels, 1983-1983, made her feel cold. 

…are you reading now?

Monique Roffey’s The Mermaid Of Black Conch was just completed. It’s a strange and beautiful book. A group of men capture Aycayia the mermaid. She was once an islander and cursed for her inability to travel with them.

It’s a love story first and foremost, about transformation and ancient ways, the classic tale of an outsider turning life upside down in a town, leaving nothing the same. Roffey’s writing is lyrical and filled with magic, but there is plenty of bittersweet realism to ground it.

…would you take to a desert island?

Philip Pullman’s Amber Spyglass. Lyra Belaqua is a wild, wonderful woman. She’s such a brilliant character, everything I want a heroine to be: clever, sparky, funny, loyal and vulnerable.

Sophie Dahl (pictured) would take The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman to a desert island

Sophie Dahl (pictured) would take The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman to a desert island

This book (and the others in the series) is such a journey, filled with characters you’d want as friends, Iorek Byrnison the armoured bear, the Gyptians, Serafina Pekkala. Philip Pullman creates such sweet characters in the midst of darkness and light. His books ring true to wisdom and truth. It is easy for me to keep returning to these books and find new things that would prove useful even on an island.

…first gave you the reading bug?

Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren and The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. Each book features a wonderful protagonist who is able to navigate difficult situations. Adversity is part of life, and good children’s books illustrate this so powerfully. Sometimes adults need to be reminded.

In her book Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old And Wise, the wonderful children’s author Katherine Rundell says: ‘Ignore those who would call it escapism: it’s not escapism: it is findism. Children’s books are not a hiding place, they are a seeking place.’

These books are what first taught me adventure and the importance of following my heart. They left an indelible mark.

…left you cold?

Outside of the Peter and Jane books, circa 1983, I can’t think of anything that I haven’t liked recently, so could it be something that is brilliant but chilling? Cold in a physical sense — if so, The Five by Hallie Rubenhold, about Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary Jane, all of whom were the victims of Jack The Ripper in 1888.

This book shows the women who were not just tabloid faces but also their lives as daughters, mothers and lovers. Rubenhold gives them the justice they deserve and shines their humanity. It’s a fierce social commentary on being born a woman in Victorian England, harrowing but important.

The Worst Sleepover In The World by Sophie Dahl, illustrated by Luciano Lozano, is out now (Walker Books, £12.99).