Clover Stroud is a writer and journalist who has written for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph and Conde Nast Traveller among others. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and five children and her latest book, My Wild and Sleepless Nights has been praised by everyone from Sophie Dahl to India Knight. Said Elizabeth Gilbert of Clover’s stunning and candid account of motherhood, ‘Every time a woman tells the truth like this, it sets another woman free.’ For an insight into the wild and sleepless nights and days of Clover’s life as a mother, as well as musings on creativity, grief and being human, alongside a wealth of book recommendations, follow her on Instagram here. Below, Clover shares the eight books she’d take with her to a desert island…
Princes in the Land by Joanna Cannan
This surprising novel is a subtle depiction of the claustrophobia and melancholy of thwarted maternal ambition. Joanna Cannan writes a bit like Molly Keane in her observations on horses and inheritance. It addresses the loss of a mother who realises she’s raised children she doesn’t recognise, since “the kingdoms she had won for them had been rejected.” Published in 1938 this astonishing novel addresses the thoroughly contemporary premise that motherhood is absolutely not the definition of a woman. I have re-read this book several times and it never disappoints me.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
My copy of this endlessly inspiring non-fiction book on tapping into personal creativity is very well thumbed. Almost more than anyone alive right now, Gilbert understands creativity and how to live it and feel it. I love the fact that this book is completely accessible and reads like a zippy romp. Gilbert has such a loud and distinct voice and reading her is like spending time in her beautiful company I’d go so far as to say this is essential reading for absolutely everyone, and is a wonderful antidote to boredom, depression or lethargy.
Lonely Courage by Rick Stroud
I should first say that this book is written by my father. But it’s an incredible story of the intense courage of the women who made up the SOE or Special Operations Executive in 1940, working behind enemy lines in Europe and Asia. Many of these women where parachuted behind enemy lines and worked with resistance fighters fighting a guerrilla war. Their stories are incredible, and their bravery and self sacrifice an absolute example to all of us today.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Like many adolescents, I stumbled upon Wuthering Heights when I was about 14. I can still quote long passages of the novel, and return to it often. The beauty and consolation of pain is one of the themes Bronte explores, and as someone who has lived through a lot of trauma in my life, which started in my mid teens, this book has always spoken to me very loudly. Combining family, ambition, sex, violence and the wild, Bronte’s writing is terrifying, racy and unsettling, which is basically everything I want in a novel.
Le Grandes Meaulnes by Alan Fournier
I love this deeply melancholic depiction of the end of adolescence, set in rural France. Fournier has a strong sense of what it’s like to be at that point in your life when you are gripping onto the past of the “lost domain” while standing on the dizzying, exhilarating cusp of adult life. “It’s better to forget all,” wrote Fournier, who was 24 when he wrote Le Grandes Meaulnes. He was killed in action in 1914, one month after joining the army, which gives this incredible novel an even greater sense of poignancy.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The question of what happens to a life when visited by intense trauma lies at the heart of this novel. It’s a romp, too, criss-crossing America from New York to the desert around Las Vegas then back into Europe, with vivid depictions of mystery, drugs and the American wild.
Journey into the Mind’s Eye by Lesley Blanch
The high romance of everything Russian dazzles in historian and adventurer Blanch’s eccentric account of the (naturally) fur-clad stranger who inhabited her heart and mind from childhood until she was 20. Her account of the yearning to recapture the emotional sense of him, if not the stranger himself, takes her around the world, but the chapters in Moscow and on the Steppe are irresistible to anyone who has loved and lost in Russia.
The Waste Land by TS Eliot
I carry a copy of this at all times as there’s no better remedy for boredom, depression or any other daily existential crisis. I also have five children, with 16 years between eldest and youngest. When years and years of reading children’s books aloud drives me mad, I send them to sleep by reading about the hyacincth girl and Madame Sosostris. When they complain they don’t understand the words I tell them that’s half the point.
I loved this interview with Clover and her two sisters, and this is a great write-up from Clover, on what she’s learnt about marriage. You can also listen to her chat to Emma Gannon about love, loss and memoir, over on Ctrl Alt Dlt.
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