WHAT BOOK would novelist Liane Moriarty take to a desert island?

  • Liane Moriarty is currently reading Anne Tyler’s 24th novel, French Braid
  • American novelist would take something by author Mike Riley to a desert island
  • Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers opened Liane’s eyes to the world of literature  

…are you reading now? 

French Braid by Anne Tyler. This is her 24th novel: I have read every one. You don’t read her for the plot — there are rarely twists and turns or surprise reveals — you read her for the eccentric characters, the pitch-perfect dialogue, the humour and the tiny ordinary moments so exquisitely described they bring tears to your eyes. 

Liane Moriarty (pictured) is currently reading Anne Tyler’s 24th novel, French Braid. American novelist would take something by author Mike Riley to a desert island

The clarity of her writing amazes me. This novel follows the delightfully dysfunctional Garrett family from the 1950s right up until the present-day pandemic. 

…would you take to a desert island?   

I always want to answer this question literally and choose something useful, such as How To Thrive On A ­Tropical Deserted Island: A Primer For The Shipwrecked Sailor Or Living Off The Land In Paradise by Mike Riley (that’s a real book!). However, I understand I am really being asked: what book brings you comfort? The truth is that I rarely re-read books, but if I had to relive a sublime reading experience it would be Life After Life by the amazing Kate Atkinson.

It’s the story of the many different possible lives of Ursula, who is born again and again in 1910. I had such a sense of movement when I was reading this book, it was as though I was being spun round and round, leaving me laughing, dizzy and exhilarated — so it would be perfect for reading in a swinging hammock slung between two palm trees. 

…first gave you the reading bug? 

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. This was my introduction to the wonderful world of the Banks family at Cherry Tree Lane. I adored all the books in the series and I can still remember their exact location in the children’s section at my local library. 

Mary is a fabulously flawed character: vain, often a little mean, sort of crazy and, of course, magical. I both loved and hated her. Julie Andrews was wonderful in the adaptation but my own, far snappier, version of Mary is still so clear in my imagination. There are days when I wish she would turn up at my house and bring us all into line. 

…left you cold? 

Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I never got past the first few pages. I know, I know. One day I’ll try again. 

Beartown by Fredrik Backman left me cold and shivering and enthralled and delighted. This is a big, drama-filled novel set in a small Swedish town where everyone is obsessed with ice hockey. 

It’s a very different read from his charming debut, A Man Called Ove, but equally compelling. Such is the power of the writing, you can feel those sub-zero Swedish temperatures right in your bones — so it was the perfect book to enjoy during a hot, humid Sydney summer. 

  • Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty (Penguin, £8.99). 

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