What book would author Audrey Magee take to a desert island?

What book would Booker-longlisted author Audrey Magee take to a desert island?

  • Booker-longlisted Audrey Magee is reading Poguemahone by Patrick McCabe
  • She is also reading The Madness, by BBC’s Fergal Keane about living with PTSD
  • She would take The Complete Works of Michel de Montaigne on a desert island 

. . . are you reading now?

Poguemahone by Patrick McCabe, the Irish author of The Butcher Boy and The Dead School.

Poguemahone — an anglicisation of the Irish phrase ‘póg mo thóin’ which translates as ‘kiss my a**’ — is a novel about an Irish brother and sister living in England.

Dan, the brother and deeply unreliable narrator, moves between the past and the present, shifting the narrative principally between a squat in Kilburn, north London, and a care home in Margate where his sister Una is living with dementia.

The free-verse writing is robust, rumbunctious and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.

I am also reading an early copy of The Madness, the account by BBC’s Fergal Keane of living with post-traumatic stress disorder. A powerful, moving story about a man struggling to stay afloat, it will be published in October.

Booker-longlisted author Audrey Magee (pictured) said she would take The Complete Works of Michel de Montaigne on a desert island with her

. . . would you take to a desert island?

At the Edinburgh Book Festival earlier this month, I popped into Topping, the gorgeous bookshop on Blenheim Place.

I bought Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Works. I am taking that to the island so that I will be fully enlightened by the time I leave.

. . . first gave you the reading bug?

I was a voracious reader as a child. The books in our village library kept me going for a while, but then I joined the one in Bray, the Irish seaside town where James Joyce spent the first six years of his life.

I ploughed through all the usual Enid Blyton books. But it was Heidi by Johanna Spyri, I Am David by Anne Holm and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell that truly snared me

I ploughed through all the usual Enid Blyton books. But it was Heidi by Johanna Spyri, I Am David by Anne Holm and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell that truly snared me. From my hideaway at the top of the house, they transported me to another world and truly opened my mind to the potential of books and writing.

I still have those three books, the copies I read as a child. (Just for the record, I bought them — they are not from Bray Library!)

. . . left you cold?

I am a writer so no book can truly leave me cold. There is always something in a book, even when it’s not for me.

I loved Great Expectations — Pip, Miss Havisham, the wedding table coated in dust and cobwebs, all stunning and utterly unforgettable.

But much of Dickens’ other work leaves me lukewarm — there’s too much padding, too much repetition.

It must have been incredibly exciting to read them as he wrote them, as weekly serialisations, but I find much of the work laboured in novel form.

The Colony, by Audrey Magee, is published by Faber & Faber. The novel has been long-listed for the Booker Prize, short-listed for the Orwell Prize, and is being adapted for film. 

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