WHAT BOOK would author Nina Stibbe take to a desert Island?


…are you reading now?

I am reading Thunderclap, a memoir by the art historian Laura Cumming, in which a dramatic moment in 1654 in the city of Delft is the starting point for a profound meditation on Dutch art. One of the most captivating books I have ever read.

I am now fascinated by Gerard ter Borch and family, Rembrandt and his wife, and long to see the painting of a bundle of asparagus by Adriaen Coorte. 

Delightful, intimate, and dotted with beautiful art. A wonderful read (or a great present) for anyone who loves stories and art.

Author Nina Stibbe poses for the photographer before making a public appearance at the 2023 Falmouth Book Festival on October 22

Author Nina Stibbe poses for the photographer before making a public appearance at the 2023 Falmouth Book Festival on October 22

…would you take to a desert island?

The collected works of Barbara Pym. The author went out of fashion in 1961 when her publisher rejected her sixth novel, but was gloriously redeemed 15 years later when Philip Larkin named her the ‘most underrated writer of the 20th century’ in the Times Literary Supplement.

Her next novel Quartet In Autumn (1977) was nominated for the Booker Prize that year, and she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

The novelist Anne Tyler recently wrote of her: ‘Whom do people turn to when they’ve finished Barbara Pym? The answer is easy — they turn back to Barbara Pym.’

Jill¿s Gymkhana by Ruby Ferguson

Jill’s Gymkhana by Ruby Ferguson

…first gave you the reading bug?

Jill’s Gymkhana by Ruby Ferguson. This was the first one in the series of Jill books, which were published in the 1950s and were already quite dated when I discovered them in the 1970s.

The Jill books were more interesting to me than similar boarding school tales aimed at girls because Jill — a plucky individual of about 12 — was disadvantaged by not being all that posh nor very good at horse riding, and in having more accomplished cousins who were cooler than her.

I particularly loved the first-person narration which involved lots of straight-to-reader talk and tiny mundane detail (‘I washed the carrots under the tap’).

…left you cold?

I don’t particularly enjoy densely plotted books about crime these days. I’m not sure I have the attention span for them any more, which is interesting because I quite like this genre in TV drama or film.

  • Went To London, Took The Dog by Nina Stibbe is out now (Picador £16.99, 352pp)



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