I don’t know if I would take any books to a desert island. Where would I store them? They would get awfully dirty, rained on and maybe eaten if I was excessively hungry. Being of a practical nature I would think of survival first.
But if I were to choose five books, it would be Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, In Corner B by Eskia Mphahlela, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and Wuthering heights by Emily Bronte.
Jane Austen’s elegant prose would feed my soul. Her finely crafted characters and ironic wit would be great company. The story of Elizabeth Bennet making snap judgements with little evidence, and Mr Darcy overcoming his pride to fall in love with her, is a story worthy of being read again and again.
On a desert island I would have the time to reread Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a book I found disturbing when I read it the first time. That slavery could make a mother want to kill her children rather than having them recaptured is shocking, especially as the novel is based on a true story of a mother killing her two-year-old daughter because she was trying to protect her. Warped yes, but surely the greatest story of a mother’s love?
John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is a slim book but such a great story. It’s a book that I reread every couple of years. The friendship between two opposites, a big man and a small man, a normal and mentally disabled man, which results in the normal one killing the other, fascinates me. It says a lot about how mentally disabled people are perceived. The parallel stories of Candy’s dog being shot as well as Lennie being killed, places a question mark over their friendship. Was it the friendship a man has with his dog? And is it the only relationship possible between normal people and those who are not? It’s the kind of book I would like to write, saying so much with a few words.
In Corner B is a delightful book. It would make me laugh, especially the story about the coffins used to carry illegal alcohol. Eskia’s description of an illiterate grandmother’s understanding of the government as a single person living in Pretoria is brilliant. He is a fearless writer who observes the warts in his own people as well as others.
Being a romantic, I like a good love story. Wuthering heights by Bronte would feed my imagination of a great love and its capacity for destruction. I have this theory that a man loves more if he is thwarted (as in The Great Gatsby) and less if he is successful in attaining the object of his desire.