Desert Island Lit – The Student Edition

Welcome back to Desert Island Lit! This week, we’re marooning third year English student Lily Williams. Will Lily take her Michaelmas term reading list or relish a tropical escape from the literary responsibilities of third year?




Lily, you can take 5 pieces of literature with you – what are they?

  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, because it’s my favourite book and easily rereadable
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier: another of my favourite novels
  • Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence, because it’s so interesting and passionate
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, because I loved it but have forgotten most of what happens
  • Jules et Jim by Henri-Pierre Roché, because I saw it in Waterstones the other day and really want to read it! It would be interesting to take something I’d never read before too


And your chosen literature from just one era or movement?

If you’d asked me a year ago I’d have said the Victorian era without hesitation, but now I’d probably go for the Modern period. There seems to be a far greater variety in the themes and plots of Modern texts which would prove more interesting and entertaining upon a desert island! Also, Victorian novels are often depressing and full of deaths, whereas Modern novels would be more invigorating to read.
You can take two writers with you for company– who? (Do you think they would they get on?)

“Daphne du Maurier because she’s such a fascinating and mysterious character so she’d provide really interesting conversations, and then maybe somebody more cheerful like Roald Dahl just to keep my spirits up. They’re opposite ends of the spectrum so I can’t imagine them getting on at all, but I’d enjoy having two completely different people to talk to about different things, and hearing both dark and uplifting stories.”


A piece of literature that is a ‘guilty pleasure’ – if such a thing exists.

I think such a thing does exist, and I’d say that Little Women by Louisa May Alcott fits into that category. It’s a really easy but feel-good read and part of me would be embarrassed if I read it again now, even though it’s very tempting! It was also written for children and I associate it with my own childhood, often watching it on TV at the weekends, so I really enjoy it but feel slightly guilty about it too.


What is your favourite quotation, or words to live by?

I don’t exactly have a favourite quotation, but the motto I try to live by is very similar to Oscar Wilde’s ‘To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.’ I’m highly conscious of how societal pressures push people along a certain pathway that often results in them living what is popularly considered to be a ‘successful’ life, but which is frequently unfulfilling and a replica of everyone else’s. I’m going to try my best to live and not just exist, and to do what I love doing no matter what.


Finally, a non-literary question: what would be your luxury item?

Even though it is slightly literary, probably my diary! It would pass the time writing in it all about my experiences upon the island, and it could double up as a sketchbook if I got bored. If I made it off the island alive I could also publish it and live the rest of my life in luxury if it proved to be popular!
Thank you Lily! Stay on board with Desert Island Lit to keep finding out which texts staff and students from the English department couldn’t live without.

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