Books

WHAT BOOK would Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall take to a desert island?

WHAT BOOK would chef and food writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall take to a desert island?

  • Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is currently reading Land Healer by Jake Fiennes 
  • He would take Remembrance Of Things Past by Marcel Proust to a desert island
  • Willard Price Adventure books first gave the food writer the reading bug

…are you reading now?

 I’m reading Land Healer by Jake Fiennes, one of the key figures helping to steer us to a more nature-friendly way of growing our food. It’s an inspiring mix of personal history, punchy food politics and, above all, hard-won knowledge about the ways farming can be tweaked and improved to help nature thrive in the countryside. 

It recognises that this is more important than ever, as our physical and mental health depends so profoundly both on good whole ingredients and being able to access a biodiverse countryside buzzing with nature.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (pictured) is currently reading Land Healer by Jake Fiennes. He would take Remembrance Of Things Past by Marcel Proust to a desert island

…would you take to a desert island? 

I would take Remembrance Of Things Past by Marcel Proust, of which I read the first ‘part’, Swann’s Way, a few years ago, with some trepidation, given its reputation for being ‘difficult’, yet in fact it’s a delight, a deeply absorbing and very witty soap opera, which also richly explores the breadths and depths of the human condition: longing and belonging, the search for self, but also self-deception, arrogance and snobbery, foibles which are indeed enfolded in some very long sentences (often whole paragraphs, with multiple subordinate clauses) but they are so elegantly and clearly constructed that you soon get the hang of them, so I’m looking forward to going back to the beginning and then reading right through the 4,000 or so pages (did you see what I did there?) 

…first gave you the reading bug? 

Without a doubt it was the Willard Price Adventure books, such as Lion Adventure, Gorilla adventure, Whale Adventure etc… they all feature brothers Hal and Roger, whose father is an animal collector (we might be pushing our luck to call him a conservationist). Roger is always getting into near-deadly scrapes until Hal comes to the rescue. 

There are some great baddies and fiendish perils, like scorpions in diving helmets and chopped leopard whiskers in food (apparently guaranteed to make you choke to death in seconds). The other thing I remember is that in the Green Knight editions I read (aged about 9-11), every single story was exactly 169 pages long. How did Mr Price do that? 

…left you cold? 

Now I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that you shun this one, as literally everyone else I know who has read it, has loved it. But I really struggled with Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders. I can’t put my finger on why, although I was given a special edition that had a richly embossed cover, and I think that somehow put me off. 

I didn’t get past 50 pages. I think I need to get a hand-me-down paperback version from a friend and give it another whirl… 

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