Emma Henderson's Desert Island Books

13/01/2012 22:07 GMT | Updated 14/03/2012 09:12 GMT


A former teacher and one-time ski lodge manager, Emma Henderson graduated with a distinction from Birkbeck's MA Creative Writing course in 2006. Her luminous debut, Grace Williams Says It Loud (Sceptre, 2010), was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize and the Orange Prize. A second novel is in the works.

1. Best book about trips or journeys.

Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer, by Richard Holmes

2. Which book are you mostly likely to pick as your ultimate survival manual?

Without a doubt, Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu. For me, it covers the broadest spectrum of subjects and emotions and in ways that are wise, witty and very beautiful.

3. Which author would you most like to go on a vacation with, and what would you be doing?

John Lanchester. We would be pursuing the debt to pleasure.

4. The Lord of the Flies was once described as embodying the "diversity and universality of. . .the human condition in the world of today". Which character do you reckon you are most like?

Don't we all want to identify with Ralph, when we should be identifying with Piggy?

5. If there was one book you had to burn for firewood, which would it be?

Clarissa [by Samuel Richardson]. It would give off much heat.

6. Which paragraph or line from a novel would you choose for your final 'message in a bottle'?

The opening of George Eliot's Adam Bede: "With a single drop of ink for a mirror, the Egyptian sorcerer undertakes to reveal to any chance comer far-reaching visions of the past. This is what I undertake to do for you, reader. With this drop of ink at the end of my pen I will show you the roomy workshop of Mr Jonathan Burge, carpenter and builder in the village of Hayslope, as it appeared on the eighteenth of June, in the year of our Lord 1799." As a reader, I get shivers up my spine every time I read this opening. As a writer, I find it endlessly inspiring. I love the way it moves so effortlessly from the macrocosm to the microcosm, from the general to the particular, from the universal to the personal. It is a promise and I can't think of a better final 'message in a bottle'.

Image courtesy of Debra Hurford Brown.