WHAT BOOK would novelist Tessa Hadley take to a desert island?

WHAT BOOK would novelist Tessa Hadley take to a desert island?

  • Tessa Hadley is reading Louise Gluck’s Winter Recipes From The Collective
  • Would take War And Peace to a desert island because it would last a long time
  • Novelist admits reading Virginia Woolf has left her cold
  • …are you reading now?

    Louise Gluck’s Winter Recipes From The Collective. I’m not a voracious reader of poetry, but I have a few poets whose books I keep very close, and she’s been one of them for years. These austere, melancholy poems seem perfectly poised for the moment we’re in, with their haunted dream landscapes and long perspectives on the past. I find the sadness and pessimism of good writing somehow strengthening and heartening. It’s the fake cheer that makes me desolate.

    …would you take to a desert island?

    Should I take War And Peace? It’s a joy and I love it without reservation — and it would last a long time while I waited on my island to be rescued. I know all the characters in it — Natasha and Andrei and Pierre and Marya and Nikolai, all of them — as intimately as if they were flesh and blood friends and family. The unfolding story of their lives and loves is the most gripping ever written. But I wonder if it won’t be too heartbreaking, reading about that whole rich world of human interaction when I’m marooned all alone? Would it amplify my loneliness, or fill it up with life?

    Tessa Hadley (写真) would take War And Peace to a desert island because it would last a long time while waiting to be rescued

    Tessa Hadley (写真) would take War And Peace to a desert island because it would last a long time while waiting to be rescued

    …first gave you the reading bug?

    The book that awoke me to the joy of reading was about Mr and Mrs Small and the small Smalls. I have no idea what the book was called, or who wrote it.

    But it’s my earliest reading memory: I can conjure the illustrations in my mind’s eye now, black and white and blue line drawings, very stylised, the characters with round heads like cutout dolls. Ever since then I’ve preferred books about small people.

    From the beginning I was hooked on stories describing the real everyday, people eating breakfast and children going to school and playing with their friends. もちろん, it’s even better if the everyday also includes a mystery.

    Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden was one of my most significant reading experiences — so much of the way my imagination works stems from being with Tom and Hatty in that garden. I didn’t care for folk tales or fairy stories when I was a child. I had to learn to appreciate those intellectually as an adult.

    …left you cold?

    Because I’m passionate about certain women writers of the first half of the twentieth century — Elizabeth Bowen, Jean Rhys, Elizabeth Taylor — it ought to follow that I love Virginia Woolf too. But for one reason or another I don’t quite. Her sentences don’t leap off the page for me; I seem to feel her struggle in them, and her disabling self-consciousness. Even in Jean Rhys, so personally anguished, there’s such a hearty appetite for the writing itself, for getting the truth of life down into the words.

    • Free Love is published on January 20 by Jonathan Cape at £16.99.