WHAT BOOK would novelist Naoise Doland take to a desert island?

WHAT BOOK would novelist Naoise Doland take to a desert island?

  • Irish novelist Naoise Doland reveals which book she’d take to a desert island 
  • READ MORE: WHAT BOOK would author, comedian and actor Ben Miller take to a desert island?

. . .are you reading now?

I picked up Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch this morning and paired the first few chapters with a disgusting instant espresso in my sitting room, then another few chapters with a human-grade Americano at my local cafe.

Anyway, enough people have expressed surprise to me that I’ve not read The Goldfinch that I thought I’d better get on it.

I only started reading contemporary American fiction in the last few years, so even the ‘biggest’ books from the previous decade are ones I’m liable to have missed.

So far, I admire Tartt’s storytelling chops. Her protagonist is fairly nondescript, but his world is shown in lavish detail, so it’s easy to insert yourself and get immersed.

Irish novelist Naoise Doland reveals which book she’d take to a desert island and what she’s reading now

That sort of escapist set-up is often sneered at, but not many authors can do it well.

. . .would you take to a desert island?

Something with lots of pages, assuming paper is scarce. At the same time, I don’t want to grapple with too much internal conflict if faced with the necessity of ripping out said pages to bandage my raccoon-bitten leg.

David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest seems a decent choice by these parameters (over 1,000 pages). I enjoyed some parts of it a lot more than others, so I can use the bad bits to mop up my blood and save the good bits to read.

. . .first gave you the reading bug?

The first books I can remember reading independently are the Mr Men series when I was about four. But I already loved reading by that stage, so the bug must have caught me earlier.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like reading. The challenge for my parents was getting me to do anything else, especially when ‘anything else’ was sport.

. . .left you cold?

Naoise says the first books she can remember reading independently are the Mr Men series

I’m not sure I agree with the implicit premise of this question, which I take to be that I can’t have enjoyed a reading experience if it didn’t move me emotionally.

There are many novels I don’t have feelings about, but am still glad to have read, whether it’s to analyse the workmanship, to better understand literary history, or simply to kill a bit of time. Not all fiction needs to take you on a harrowing voyage through Dante’s Inferno and give you counselling sessions along the way.

That said, when I remember finding a book forgettable (there’s a paradox), it’s usually not the book’s fault. Anthony Trollope, for instance, is probably good at what he sets out to do.

But I only turned to Trollope because I’d run out of Dickens, when the features I love in Dickens are things Trollope wasn’t even attempting (irony, eccentricity, toying with language — Trollope was far too workmanlike to allow for such play).

Choosing what to read and how to read it is a skill in itself, and I’ve improved over the years. Nowadays, when I’m missing a particular author, I just reread them or sit in the grief until I’m ready to appreciate someone else on their own terms.

The Happy Couple by Naoise Dolan (£16.99, W&N) is out now.

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