Wednesday 3 August 2022

Desert Island Books with Carolyn Clarke


Hello and welcome back to Desert Island Books. I am thrilled to have Carolyn Clarke joining us this month.

Carolyn's recently released debut novel, And Then There's Margaret, is a wonderfully entertaining and relatable book. You can read my review of this fabulous book by clicking here.

Carolyn is the founder and curator of, a blog focused on ‘life and lit’ for women over 40. And Then There’s Margaret is her first novel. She has been an ESL teacher for over sixteen years and has co-authored several articles and resources with Cambridge University Press, MacMillan Education and her award-winning blog ESL Made Easy. 

So, Carolyn, how do you think you would get on if you were stranded on a desert island?

Stranded on a desert island might be fun if I had the necessities for survival and other items to keep me sane while breaking free from the matrix of modern society. Some of those items would be a bunch of books I haven’t read yet but want to read, and books I loved and would want to read again.

For starters, I’d like to read some of the movies/series I’ve enjoyed on screen featuring older protagonists struggling with real life challenges. I’m a fan of comedies but lately I’ve become a bigger fan of dramedies – books that have the perfect balance of drama and comedy. And I’m not talking light reads about living in a big city with a terrible boss and a wandering lover. I’m way past that and have gladly moved on. I want to read about issues that reflect my reality. Not the happily ever after. So, meaningless jobs, failing marriages, MIA kids and ageing parents all with characters that are flawed, genuine and most importantly, relatable, and real. For those on screen dramedies turned to books, here are a few I’d want to take with me.

French Exit by Patrick deWitt

While the movie wasn’t exactly a hit with movie goers and critics, I did enjoy the stellar performances of Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges. Although a little silly at times, this black comedy packed a punch examining what it’s like to fear the end of something and to resist the act of moving on. It was a surreal comedy and I look forward to reading the book.

The Land of Steady Habits by Ted Thompson

I enjoyed this slow-paced movie about a recently retired middle-aged man who after years of doing everything right, finds himself still reaching for a slice of happiness in his life. He leaves his wife, moves into a condo, and then waits for it to come. But it doesn’t. It was a funny, relatable, and bittersweet movie, full of complicated characters struggling between the choices of freedom and obligation. I look forward to this read and want to compare the movie to Ted Thompson’s “suburb” debut novel.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Oh, did I LOVE this limited series that followed the stern and undeniably depressed yet witty character, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher who loathes life it seems and the changes going on around her, including the people in her town.

This HBO miniseries starring Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins is a must see if you like family dramas that focus on the human condition. Told beautifully, I can’t wait to read the book. And even more exciting is Elizabeth Strout’s follow up book, Olive, Again that came out in 2019. Can I take that too? 
You certainly can Carolyn.

I like funny laugh out loud reads so for those books/memoirs/essays by celebrity authors I’ve read and loved, here are a few that would surely keep me entertained.

Sicker in the Head by Judd Apatow

I read his first book, Sick in the Head and promised myself I’d read the next one. I enjoy reading the conversations of some of the funniest in the comedy world! Judd Apatow is an amazing writer and producer to boot – I’ve watched ALL of his movies with sheer delight – Knocked Up, This is 40, The 40-Year-Old Virgin…the list goes on. 

While hammocking away on a deserted beach, I want to laugh out loud and learn more about this ever changing, and not to mention, challenging landscape for the world of comedians – it can’t be easy in this day and age. Ahem.

Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson

I’ve read Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy, and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened books and want to read her latest one, Broken. Her deliciously funny outlook on life and her eccentric memories of childhood are real and raw – told with sarcasm, and at times, inappropriate humour. She’s one of the funniest writers I’ve read. I’d want Jenny Lawson with me so I can find humour in the loneliness and fear of being stranded on an island without my phone and all the other wonderful and convenient gadgets in my life​.

Anything by Mindy Kaling

It’s hard to choose but anything by Mindy Kaling would bring me great joy and comfort. Besides binge watching The Mindy Project and yes, I must admit, Netflix’s teen dramedy, Never Have I Ever (in which she produced and I’m sure mostly wrote), I’ve read 3 of her 5 short and fun essays and let me tell you, the things she says and how she writes them always makes me laugh out loud. I’d want to bring her along – she’s extremely witty, engaging, and real!

Her books sound excellent but you can only have one. Perhaps, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) would be a good one.

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron was wickedly witty. I read Heartburn but never had a chance to read this one. Here’s a review…

“A candid, hilarious look at women of a certain age and dealing with the tribulations of maintenance, menopause, empty nests, and life itself.”

Need I say more?

The Odyssey by Lara Williams

The vibrant colour of this book’s cover caught my attention on Goodread’s 2022 Most Anticipated Book.

While I haven’t had a chance to dig too deep into the plot summary, the reviews say it all – “slyly humorous” and “utterly sharp and brilliant.” I read somewhere this book falls in the same vein as Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends and Sayaka Murata’s very quirky yet intelligent novel Convenience Store Woman. Both of whom I’m great fans of.

Thank you so much for joining us Carolyn. You have some excellent choices there, many of which are new to me.

Carolyn can be found at:

Twitter: @CarolynRClarke                       
Facebook: @CarolynClarkeAuthor
Instagram: @carolynclarkeauthor

And Then There’s Margaret by Carolyn Clarke (Black Rose Writing) is available from Amazon and all good book retailers.

If you are an author who would like to take part and choose which eight books you would take to a desert island, please email me at: or you can find me on Twitter at: @leftontheshelf1

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