Grave Goods – Samantha Harvey

Samantha Harvey

Samantha Harvey

Samantha Harvey is the author of four novels, The WildernessAll Is Song, Dear Thief and The Western Wind, and of a memoir, The Shapeless Unease: A Year of not Sleeping.

Her novels have been shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Guardian First Book Award, the Walter Scott Prize and the James Tait Black Prize, and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Baileys Prize, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize and the HWA Gold Crown Award. The Wilderness was the winner of the AMI Literature Award and the Betty Trask Prize, and The Western Wind won the 2019 Staunch Book Prize.

The Shapeless Unease was published by Jonathan Cape in January 2020.

She lives in Bath, UK, and is a Reader in creative writing at Bath Spa University.


Tools of the Trade – a tool/implement without which you’d be lost, whether it’s a pen, trowel, notepad, bottle-opener or scanning electron microscope.

Does a bike count? I love my filthy, cranky, rattling bike. It doesn’t look like I love it, but I really do.

Food for the Journey – a favourite portable snack, or a portion of something from your funeral feast.

This will surely be everyone’s answer, but it would have to be a salted caramel coated piece of Danish liquorice from this special shop in Copenhagen (or, tbf, from Amazon.

Memento Vivere – a memento of a companion/event to bring you cheer (can be an image).

When my sister and I were kids we had many family holidays in Devon and Cornwall, which our parents told us were ‘abroad’. They also said there was a time difference and that we had to adjust our clocks around 3 hours after we left Kent. I have a lot of memories of these holidays, which have not all been ruined by the discovery (aged about 22) of my parents’ deceit.

There was the beauty pageant at Butlins, whereby young girls had to go on stage in their swimming costumes and have their attractiveness selected by a panel of men. My sister made it through two more rounds than I did, a fact I long ago put behind me. There was the time my sister cut her foot open on a piece of glass and we had to go to hospital. There was the rain. There was the surprise Bucks Fizz concert. There was the eating-a-doughnut-without-licking-your-lips competition ( I won, needless to say). There was the time we had our photos taken for a holiday brochure. There was the rain. And there were these little plastic things that were like kaleidoscopes, except you put a small photo inside and looked through the lens, into the light, to see your photo illuminated and magnified. We had one made for each of us.

I still have two of these – I long to know what happened to the other two. They sit on the book case on my landing and often when I walk past I pick them up and look into them. There’s my beautiful mum with her bowl of prawn cocktail, and there’s five year old me. I feel like it’s one of my earliest memories. In any case, they remind me of my family, all those holidays, all that scrambling over Exmoor rocks, falling in rivers, swimming in the sea, picnics in the car in a storm – all the summer rain, all the love.

Ex Libris – the book or text you are least likely to tire of reading.

Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes.

I think.

Lucky Deposition – a bonus selection chosen by the guest – can include transport.

Being completely without musical talent, I’d like to take a harp. I love the music of Joanna Newsom, the American harpist whose voice some describe as being like Marge Simpson’s. I like the way her hands move across the strings as if through flowing water, and I’ve always wanted to have a go. How hard can it be? I suppose the trouble is that Newsom is an actual genius with the gods moving through her, whereas I’m someone who never got far past the ‘tune’ Middle C in my piano lessons (where you play middle C to the song ‘I am C, middle C, left hand, right hand, middle C’). It was all very godless with me and playing music – but perhaps if I acquire a harp the gods will have a better idea of where to find me?

A Message from Beyond the Grave – an entirely discretionary option – leave a note for a future generation to find.

Is it the Dalai Lama who said ‘Be kind whenever possible, and it is always possible.’

I love this maxim, I find it truly testing, truly radical if put into practice. Whenever I find myself being a bastard, I try to call it up.

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