Books

WHAT BOOK would actress and writer Katy Brand take to a desert island?

WHAT BOOK would actress and writer Katy Brand take to a desert island?

  • Katy Brand has just finished reading The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  • She would take the full ‘Rabbit’ collection by John Updike to a desert island
  • Actress revealed that the work of Virginia Woolf was difficult to get along with

…are you reading now?

I am right between books — I have just finished The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, and I am about to start The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman.

I enjoyed The Testaments, though I found it a little neat at times. I think I preferred The Handmaid’s Tale, the first of Atwood’s Gilead novels — it was more specific and somehow more frightening.

I’m very excited to begin the new Philip Pullman book — I love the Dark Materials world he has created.

I started reading them nearly 20 years ago and it feels as if the story and his heroine, Lyra, are growing with me.

Actress and writer Katy Brand has just finished reading The Testaments by Margaret Atwood and revealed she would take the full ‘Rabbit’ collection by John Updike to a desert island

While I was waiting for the Pullman to arrive, I started to re-read Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, and was reminded what an absolute genius she is.

…would you take to a desert island?

I would take the full ‘Rabbit’ collection by John Updike, which is a study of the whole life of an ordinary American man, Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom.

The first one is Rabbit, Run, then there are several more. I love the way he creates that mood of the American Dream without fully endorsing it.

If I were allowed a couple more, I’d take Portnoy’s Complaint, by Philip Roth, which is funny and filthy and I love it, and also a couple by Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper, to cheer me up.

They are two authors who always improve my mood if I’m feeling a little bleak. And maybe I’d sneak in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾, by the comic genius Sue Townsend.

…first gave you the reading bug?

Pretty much anything by Roald Dahl. I Hoovered up his books when I was a child, and I particularly remember being so frightened by The Witches that I couldn’t read it alone, even though I was desperate to finish the story.

Katy Brand would take the full ‘Rabbit’ collection by John Updike to a desert island

I would follow my parents around the house with it, so I could carry on without being by myself.

I learnt to read early thanks to my grandmother, Violet Brand, who was a teacher, author and phonics pioneer, so I was pushing through books that were aimed at an audience older than me. I was very lucky in that respect.

I loved the James Herriot books, and also had a weakness for Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High. I got started on the Jackie Collins oeuvre waaaaay too young . . . but I do love her.

…left you cold?

I find the work of Virginia Woolf difficult to get along with. I have tried several times but I just end up annoyed with it.

It always feels so indulgent and wilfully pretentious. I think I am also influenced by the notion that if we had ever met, we’d have hated each other on sight.

I will try again, though — I keep hoping I will find the substance underneath the style.

I’m also sorry to say I find Charles Dickens a real challenge. I don’t know why — there is something about it that feels as if it shuts me out. Perhaps it’s too perfectly realised and described — it feels as if there’s no room for me.

It’s a seriously embarrassing gap in my reading knowledge, though, so I will keep trying until I get it.

I Carried A Watermelon: Dirty Dancing And Me, Katy Brand’s latest book, is published by HQ, £12.99. 

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