The Daily Mail: ‘WHAT BOOK would historian Amanda Foreman take to a desert island?’

Historian Amanda Foreman shares that she is currently reading The Dry by Jane Harper

. . . are you reading now?

The Dry, by Jane Harper. The hero, Aaron Falk, is a Melbourne-based federal agent, whose life has settled into a narrow furrow of work and more work.
However, he harbours a dark past that comes back to haunt him after his childhood friend inexplicably kills himself and his family.
Falk reluctantly returns to his home town and finds a seething community that’s suffering from more than just a prolonged drought. A complete page-turner.

. . . would you take to a desert island?

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. One of the reasons people love the LOTR so much is because it’s both familiar and strange at the same time.

Tolkien was an expert on Anglo-Saxon and Middle English and, when he wasn’t writing about elves and hobbits, he was analysing Beowulf and other epics. He poured all his scholarship into LOTR and then disguised it through layers of mythology and imagination.

. . . gave you the reading bug?

Enid Blyton’s Mr Galliano’s Circus. I remember suddenly being able to understand the words and becoming gripped by the adventures of Jimmy and his performing dog, Lucky.

From there, I soon became the sixth member of The Famous Five, the eighth in The Secret Seven, and a boarder at Malory Towers, followed by St Clare’s.
I gave these books to my own children, and they were inspired, too.

. . . left you cold?

Jude The Obscure, by Thomas Hardy. All his books end with a tragedy, but this (spoiler alert!) contains the ultimate horror show. At the end, Jude’s children are driven to commit suicide. Hardy wrote the book to highlight the ills of social intolerance.

But the relish with which he abuses and browbeats his readers left me cold.

AMANDA is the author of Georgiana: Duchess Of Devonshire, which won the Whitbread biography prize and was made into a film, The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley (far left). Amanda is speaking at the Cliveden Literary Festival on October 15. For details, visit

Leave a Reply

Next ArticleWSJ Historically Speaking: The Psychology and History of Snipers