Welcome to another interview-with-a-twist in the Barren Island Books series! The rules remain the same: guests imagine they’re being exiled to a remote island with only five books for company, selected from the categories I give them. But the twist is, these guests aren’t authors but fictional characters.
My interviewee this week is Leah, the protagonist of the Worlds Apart series by Andrea Baker. We caught up with her shortly after her move to Little Virginia, Kenilworth, before the dramatic events chronicled in the Worlds Apart books began to unfold …
Leah, thanks for joining us. First of all, you and your father have recently moved here to Little Virginia. Could you please tell us a bit about your life before the move? How do you feel about being here?
Hello! Thank you for having me … I think. My life has been pretty much like everyone else’s, other than Mom dying, of course, that’s been hard. I loved our old house, and my friends – I knew everyone, and where they’d tend to hang out, so I could avoid them if I wanted to. Jen and I always planned to go to university together, to Aberystwyth, so we could be by the sea, but Dad had other plans. He got a job at the Science Park next door to the Westwood Campus of Warwick Uni, so I could study there and we could still live together. He thought my nightmares would improve if there were fewer memories, but if anything they’ve got worse.
We'd like to learn a little more about you and your interests. Who or what are the most important people or things in your life? How do you spend your free time?
I love music and reading. I’m quite a loner really, and enjoy my own company because I can still talk to Mom in my head about things. I know that sounds weird, but it’s as if I can have a conversation with her, and I can hear her talking to me, but it only happens when I’m on my own. Mom was my best friend, we were so close. Dad tries, hard, but he doesn’t understand how I feel, or girl stuff, and he can’t see that it’s not fair on me to expect me to cook all the meals, etc. The only person who understands is Jen, and now we’ve been split up because of this stupid move.
Now, as you know, the idea of this interview is to choose the five books that you’d take into exile with you. So first of all, what was your favourite book as a child, and why?
It has to be Harry Potter! I read the first book when I was ten, so I was a little younger than Hermione then, but she was such an inspiration, and exactly what I wanted to be like.
Since coming to Little Virginia, you've become very interested in Kenilworth Castle – which is, after all, right on your doorstep! So for your second choice, what is your favourite book that features a castle?
There wasn’t a specific book that drew me to castles, it is more the wonder and history of them. Growing up in Clifton, and now living in Kenilworth, I’ve always been surrounded by castles, particularly ones with a Norman heritage, and I have always felt at home among the ruins. When Mom was alive we used to spend hours amongst them, travelling all over the country to visit different examples, and many of them felt like home. One of my favourite stories is the romance between Robert Dudley and Queen Elizabeth I, which of course is the reason why Kenilworth was made so grand.
Then how about Jeane Westin's novel on that subject, His Last Letter? Now, we understand you sometimes suffer from nightmares. So for your third choice, is there a book you turn to for comfort or distraction when you can't sleep?
My third book is actually one of my mum’s favourites, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery. I remember her reading it to me, and it’s really really old fashioned, but she loved the stories, and I loved hearing her read, so I get it out now and again when I really need to, and I pretend she is reading it to me. It smells of her perfume too …
You're about to start university, but let me take you back to your school days for a moment! English classes can either make or ruin certain books for their students. For your fourth pick, which book that you studied at school did you enjoy the most?
We studied Goodbye Bafana as one of the texts during our themed curriculum on apartheid. It was a really powerful book, not just because of Nelson Mandela, but because it showed how the prison guard came to view him as such a powerful man, and had so much respect for him.
And finally, you’ve chosen to take a Business Studies course at the university. Is there a non-fictional book, either in that subject area or another, that you'd particularly recommend?
Our “bible” at A level was Craven and Woodruff, Marketing – it is so down to earth and practical … A little outdated now, I guess, because I got it from the library, but it was a great help at A level, and I’ve bought a second-hand copy to help at uni too.
Now you’ve chosen your books, we’ll also let you select one song/piece of music, one film and one other item of your choice to take to the island with you …
Favourite piece of music? Feeling Good by Muse – it HAS to be that version, all the others are so limp!
Film – I really like the Hunger Games movies, and can’t wait for the last one to come out – will I be out of exile by then …?
Other item? Has to be the picture of Mom and Dad together, doesn’t it?
Many thanks for joining us, Leah. Enjoy your ‘exile’!
Thank you for having me :)