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WHAT BOOK would novelist Polly Samson take to a desert island? 

WHAT BOOK would novelist Polly Samson take to a desert island?

  • Polly Samson is reading For Esme — With Love And Squalor by J.D. Salinger
  • Novelist would take all seven volumes of Proust to a desert island
  • She said Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree gave her the reading bug

. . . are you reading now?

As ever, I am not reading just the one book. By the bath I always keep a short story collection and at the moment it’s For Esme — With Love And Squalor by J.D. Salinger. The reason I do this is that I am quite impatient, but know that a long soak will be good for aches and pains. So, apart from the fact that I love the short story form, reading one is perfect for therapeutic reasons and each of these is a masterpiece.

I am also reading a book that my American publisher has asked me to comment on and I am enjoying it so much. It’s a second novel by Stephanie Gangi called Carry The Dog and is told in confessional style by Bea, a woman of my age who is trying to make sense of her troubled childhood. Bea’s mother was a famous and controversial photographer who took nudes of her children, and those parts of the book are very dark, but it also manages to be funny. The comedy comes each time Bea’s former husband, a septuagenarian rockstar called Gary, makes an appearance.

Polly Samson (pictured) would take all seven volumes of Proust to a desert island

I am also re-reading an old favourite, Three Summers, a classic novel written in 1946 by the Greek writer Margarita Liberaki. I am writing an introduction to a new edition and it is such a pleasure to be transported to the Greek countryside. By complete coincidence, one of the times that I was on Hydra researching A Theatre For Dreamers, I stayed in what had been Liberaki’s house on the island.

. . . would you take to a desert island?

I have never read Proust so would take an omnibus of all seven volumes of Remembrance Of Things Past. I’d take it in French if I could also have a French-to-English dictionary to keep me occupied in case I’m stuck on the island for years.

. . . first gave you the reading bug?

Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree is the first book that I can remember reading with my mother, and it’s one that has been loved just as much by each of my children. My first memory of devouring pages completely alone is reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House In The Big Woods.

When I was seven we moved from North London to a deserted part of Cornwall. My grandmother sent me the book, which is the first in the series, and asked for a written review before she sent the next one.

It was a brilliant scheme that continued beyond the last of these wonderful books and on throughout my childhood.

. . . left you cold?

All instruction manuals! Even for things that interest me, like my camera, I find my eyes slide from the page. I seem to be only capable of learning how to use things by direct experience.

A Theatre For Dreamers by Polly Samson is out now in paperback (Bloomsbury, £8.99).

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