WHAT BOOK would author and chef Prue Leith take to a desert island?
- Prue Leith would take the collected works of Anthony Trollope to a desert island
- In her opinion the Victorian writer is better than even Dickens or Thackeray
- Chef said she started reading thanks to horse riding when she tried Black Beauty
. . . are you reading now?
Two books — one is Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, the best-selling, easy, charming love story about a wild and lonely girl living in the marshes of the Deep South, and a heftier book called The Inevitable: Dispatches On The Right To Die by the terrific journalist Katie Engelhart.
Because I campaign for the legalisation of medically assisted dying, I picked up this book as a duty, not expecting a pleasure.
Chef, writer and broadcaster Prue Leith (pictured) would take the collected works of Anthony Trollope to a desert island
But it is so well written and thoroughly researched, with no strident polemic or hysteria, that it is, extraordinarily, a delight to read: interesting and moving, thought-provoking and important.
It is also gripping. It starts with the tale of three middle-class women friends who have, unusually, thought about the subject in advance, done their homework on the internet and learned where to buy, illegally, a lethal dose in Mexico.
It’s nerve-racking but brings them peace of mind: no doctor will force them to live when they’ve had enough.
There are thousands of people like those women, secretly storing a cache of poison against the day, and thousands more wishing they could. Engelhart also examines the experiences of people dying with medical help where assisted dying is legal and those trying to die without it.
She explores the secret network of people, clinics and medics helping patients that the medical system cannot.
And she explores, with empathy and accuracy, the experiences of those around the dying person.
. . . would you take to a desert island?
It’s thanks to horses that I started to read, first with Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (a tear-jerker told from the horse’s point of view)
I’d take the collected works of the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope, to my mind a better writer even than Dickens or Thackeray. I’ve read all his books and there is not a dud among them.
If I can only take one, it would be The Warden, a moving story of a kind old man trying to do good in a hierarchical society dominated by the snobbishness of the church.
. . . first gave you the reading bug?
When I was a child I preferred horses to reading, much to the distress of my father. But it’s thanks to horses that I started to read, first with Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (a tear-jerker told from the horse’s point of view) and then My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara, an altogether happier book aimed at young riders in love with horses.
. . . left you cold?
Like many others, I couldn’t finish Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, nor James Joyce’s Ulysses. Though recently someone, keen to educate me, sent me a crib for the latter. It explained every nuance of Ulysses and made that whole Dublin day make sense. But I still enjoyed the crib more than the book.
Prue Leith’s memoir, I’ll Try Anything Once, is published by Quercus at £9.99.
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