Based on the BBC radio programme ‘Desert Island Discs’, we’ve adapted this idea to ask castaways to list up to eight books, one song and one luxury item that they couldn’t do without on a desert island.
The rules are fairly simple, any type of book can be selected, but we ask that at least half are lesfic. Choices should be justified in a paragraph or two. Any type of music is allowed. The luxury item must be inanimate and of no use in escaping the island or allowing communication from outside.
Clare Ashton’s Desert Island Books
My book choices
For this list, I have unashamedly chosen books that leave me with a sense of comfort – much needed I imagine while I’m stuck on a desert island. Though many have horribly flawed protagonists, you can feel the author’s deep love and affection for them, and each restores my faith in humanity.
‘How Sweet It Is’ by Melissa Brayden
I could have filled the list with Melissa Brayden novels for the island. She’s my go-to author for FF romance. Almost every time I wonder if I will fall for her latest characters, and every time she adds layer after layer and moment after moment so that by the time the novel concludes so deliciously my heart will be full and a tear will roll down my cheek. ‘Kiss the Girl’, with its drama and perfect ice queen heroine of Jessica, is often my choice, but ‘How Sweet It Is’ for raw emotion is the one for this list.
A seemingly simple novel, written so deceptively easily and all the richer for it. Set on a Finnish island and focusing on the beautiful interactions between a grandmother and granddaughter – one moment amusing, another painfully poignant. It’s one I treasure. I read every chapter with deep admiration as if captivated by a perfect jewel.
Lianne Moriarty excels at deeply flawed heroines and she does not shy away from exposing their foibles but still in a way that often engages the reader’s sympathy and understanding. The stories twist and turn and are achingly well observed and so skillfully written that you do not know which aspect of her writing to admire most – and there are so many facets. I will laugh out loud, root for my heroes and be floored by their mistakes. She’s known best for Big Little Lies but The Last Anniversary, again set on an island, is my favourite.
The English literature curriculum was full of dusty old books by men when I was at school, certainly admirable and groundbreaking, but nothing captured my heart, mind and soul until ‘Pride and Prejudice’ appeared on the reading list. Elizabeth Bennet was a gutsy heroine I didn’t know I’d been longing for and certainly didn’t expect to find in a regency romance and was a modern heroine by an ingenious author both ahead of their time. I fell for Elizabeth and Darcy in the original and was pleasantly surprised by the change in Miss Bingley for Kate Christie’s mash up. I’m going to cheat and take both.
Whenever I want humour with one foot set in coarse and hilarious reality but still want that wonderful fix of romance I will reach for a Robyn Alexander novel and they have never let me down. The Fall with its two romances and a queer uncle who would set anyone’s life ablaze is my favourite.
Another author who can relentlessly take the mick out of her characters, imbue them with the most common, even unappealing of flaws while instilling that warm glow of love and romance is G Benson. ‘Who’d Have Thought’ with its fake marriage and ice queen surgeon is my favourite of hers so far.
A much richer set of books than the films would suggest, although I love those too. Reading this series to my son, going on the adventures of Hiccup and friends, through loss and heart break, seeing the world put right by the small actions of those least likely was an incredible experience that I will treasure for ever. The writing style is exciting and sparkles with humour. The characters surprise with hidden depth. You can almost see a child’s mind and emotional intelligence grow as you read this epic tale. I cherish these books for that shared journey with my son.
It’s been a while since I read the Northern Lights and the rest of the trilogy and I think I would enjoy that immersive experience again while on the island. Another piece of fiction that unflinchingly looks at the worst of humanity but has characters which are compelling and restore your faith in love and human kind.
My song choice
I couldn’t settle on a song. Music is so evocative I couldn’t choose one that wouldn’t make me miss my old life too painfully.
My inanimate object choice
About Clare Ashton
Clare Ashton writes FF romance and is best known for her sunny Welsh romance, Poppy Jenkins, twisting darker tale, After Mrs Hamilton, and romantic family saga The Goodmans