Desert Island Books: Jane Green

There is something about reading books as a teen, or a young woman, at a time when we are profoundly vulnerable and not yet sure of who we are, when words and stories on the page can sneak into our heads and stay with us forever. Bilgewater is another of these. The pain of not fitting in, the glory of female friendship, the hope that everything works out in the end in the way it should, all told in Jane Gardam’s beautiful prose. It delighted me then, and delights me now.


Buy May We Be Forgiven from Bookshop.org, Book Depository or Waterstones.
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Buy On Writing from Bookshop.org, Book Depository or Waterstones.

Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido

Another series I discovered sometime in the eighties, and plunged headfirst into the quirky characters and tales of life in San Francisco at its’ heady best. Because it was originally written as a newspaper column, it has a propulsive quality that makes it hard to put down. I followed the characters throughout all of the books, dreaming of one day living in San Francisco, with rickety wooden steps that might lead to a secret garden strung with lights and the odd marijuana bush. Heaven.
This was the first serious book I fell in love with. I was always a reader, but this was our first school assignment when I was about eleven, and I remember racing ahead in the classroom, heart pounding as young Pip encountered Magwitch, entranced by the spidery Miss Havisham, with the cold, compelling Estella. It is a timeless, brilliant story, and each time I go back to it, it brings back happy memories of a childhood lost in books.

Buy Brother of the More Famous Jack from Bookshop.org, Book Depository or Waterstones.

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

Jane Green has been one of my favourite authors for as long as I can remember. She is my go-to for an uplifting read, and the ultimate in escapist fiction. I’ve been reading – and recommending – her books for almost two decades, and I’ve read every single one of her books – some of them many times over.

Buy Great Expectations from Bookshop.org, Book Depository or Waterstones.

Bilgewater by Jane Gardam

It’s hard to choose a more contemporary novel as a desert island, but anything by A.M.Homes would have to come, and this was my first, and remains my favorite of hers. Funny, ridiculous, this made me instantly fall in love with A.M.Homes’s writing, and her themes of people finding family in the most unexpected of places.

Buy Bilgewater from Bookshop.org, Book Depository or Waterstones.

The author of twenty one novels, including eighteen New York Times bestsellers, Jane has over ten million books in print, is published in over 25 languages, and has several books in development for film and tv. Her new book, Sister Stardust, is her first foray into biographical fiction, telling the story of Talitha Getty in Marrakech in the late sixties.

On Writing Stephen King

I have been meaning to re-read this for years, and being on a desert island would give me no excuse. It is profoundly simply, and clever. An excellent guide for anyone starting out, or indeed continuing after a long career. I found the advice eminently practical, and wise. And who better than Stephen King to advise on writing stories?

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Buy Sister Stardust from Bookshop.org or Book Depository.

May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes

I first read this in 1982. I was fourteen years old, an awkward teenager who didn’t fit in, who plunged headfirst into the chaotic, loving embrace of the Goldman family. I lived in Hampstead, where the fictitious family lived, and I dreamed of one day living as they did, with an open house, an open heart, and open arms. The dialogue delighted me, and it is a book I continue to read every couple of years, to revisit old and beloved friends.

Jane Green

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. Buy Tales of the City from Bookshop.org, Book Depository or Waterstones.