WHAT BOOK would journalist Sophia Money-Coutts take to a desert island?
- Sophia Money-Coutts reveals she is reading City Of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
- The book she’d take to a desert island is Bill Bryson’s Notes From A Big Country
- And tells how Richmal Crompton’s Just William stories first got her reading
…are you reading now?
City Of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m a latecomer to the Elizabeth Gilbert fan club. Years ago, I stopped reading Eat, Pray, Love after the delicious Italian section because I didn’t really ‘get’ all the soul-searching. A decade or so on, after a few dubious relationships of my own, I now understand what she was talking about, the questions and struggles that we face as we grow older.
During lockdown, I listened to various podcast interviews with her to try to absorb some of that wisdom and also picked up this, Gilbert’s most recent novel.
It stars a 19-year-old called Vivian who moves to Manhattan in the summer of 1940 to live with her unconventional Aunt Peg in her thoroughly disreputable theatre.
It’s a charming, funny story about working out who you want to be in life, with showgirls and sequins thrown in for good measure.
Author and journalist Sophia Money-Coutts, who reveals she is currently reading City Of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
…would you take to a desert island?
Bill Bryson’s Notes From A Big Country. Not to be confused with his book about travelling around Britain (Notes From A Small Island), this is a collection of columns which Bryson wrote for The Mail on Sunday in the late Nineties, having returned to America with his family after living in the UK for two decades.
With trademark mockery, he tackles the indignity of car hire, the freezing winters in New Hampshire, over-friendly burger waiters, the pantomime of getting the Christmas tree decorations down from the loft and the challenges of the American tax system. I keep it on my bedside table for low or sleepless moments and dipping in always makes me smile.
Sophia tells how Richmal Crompton’s Just William stories first got her reading
…first gave you the reading bug?
You know how certain books hold almost mythic status within families, the quotes from them often trotted out as if in-jokes?
Richmal Crompton’s Just William stories remain the all-time favourite in my family. I grew up reading ancient, maroon hardbacks which had belonged to my grandpa, tittering to myself at William’s mishaps with his terrier, Jumble, at his scheming with the Outlaws and at his disdain for Violet Elizabeth Bott.
As stories go, they also offer budding writers excellent lessons in plotting. Look up the story of how William gets revenge on his arch-enemy, Hubert Lane, at his Christmas party to see what I’m talking about. Bliss.
…left you cold?
Middlemarch by George Eliot. I know, I’m sorry, I’m a philistine. I can feel my mother rolling her eyes, and my old English teacher sighing, but I’ve tried and failed three times to get to grips with this classic.
I get as far as Dorothea marrying that cold fish Mr Casaubon and then I lose interest. In a recent attempt at self-improvement, I downloaded a BBC audio adaptation of the book which my friend Clare swore I’d love and yet that, too, had to be switched off after two episodes.
Too many characters! Too many confusing doctors and uncles and dodgy nephews. Does this mark me out as exceptionally dim? I fear it may.
The Wish List by Sophia Money-Coutts is available now, published by HQ at £12.99.