Jane Austen bookclub: the cast of Emma on the books that changed their lives

Crushes on Peter Pan, rewilding the British countryside and understanding society – Emma stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth and Callum Turner, plus director Autumn de Wilde on the books they love

To celebrate the release of Emma, we caught up with the film’s director plus the young cast to ask about books that changed their lives – and the ones they recommend to fellow book lovers…

Anya Taylor-Joy: The first lines of Peter Pan were the first I remember memorising. Every thought was as magical and indulgent as a truffle. He will always be my first and forever crush.

Mia Goth: I think it’s so important to go into a bookstore and see which book speaks to you – to have that sort of connection and introduction to a book is quite romantic.

Callum Turner: I buy Brave New World and 1984 for people as gifts to understand the world around us. Those books captured my imagination. I was about 19, getting to grips with what capitalism is when I read George Orwell’s 1984.

Woah! It’s the book you should read to understand the world and society we live in. Aldous Huxley was a visionary – things he wrote about in the 1920s and 30s are here today.

MG: I read The Catcher in the Rye when I was 14. It was like my first young adult novel – and was probably the mark of my transition from reading Jacqueline Wilson and Lemony Snicket.

CT: Catcher In The Rye is such a cool book – I wish I’d read it when I was  14. I was about 25.

Johnny Flynn: This film ticks so many boxes because I love history and historical novels. I love Hilary Mantel, Rose Tremain is one of my favourites. But recently I’ve mainly been reading to do with research – looking at books David Bowie recommended and referenced [Flynn plays Bowie in an upcoming biopic]. He had some amazingly deep books on his list – like Kafka.

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Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn in Emma

MG: A book I read recently that I love is a French book called Bonjour Tristesse – which translates as ‘Hello Sadness’ – by Françoise Sagan. It is incredible and was scandalous in France when it came out in the 1950s – in a nutshell, it is about a young girls on the verge of becoming a woman who goes on holiday with her father and stepmother and it all unravels. The social dynamics and alchemy between the three of them in this blazing heat is so well done.

CT: I just read a book called Disgrace by JM Coetzee about a South African lecturer who is completely self-destructive and ruins his career and relationships. And I’m reading a book by Carlos Castaneda – it’s a first hand account of a journey and connecting to the earth and nature.

In terms of the climate breakdown, I think rewilding is the answer

JF: The book that has really affected me recently is Wilding by Isabella Tree, about an estate in Sussex that has been given back to nature and transformed. In terms of the climate breakdown, I think rewilding is the answer – so I have been donating to tree planting causes and going on Extinction Rebellion marches.

I think it is a model for how the country should go. I’m arguing the case for farmers to be supported in rewilding and supporting grants for that – that’s what I’m about.

Autumn de Wilde: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov had a profound effect on me because the devil was presented as the most charming kind of man ever. The devil is in all of us, and can only create great hurt and pain because we know they can also create such joy.

ATJ: I’ve recently finished Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life – it’s been a while since I’ve been so devastated by a book. I would take myself out for dinner in Berlin where I was working and come to at the table, clutching my heart. Just beautiful…

  • EMMA is in cinemas from February 14