Ophelia Lovibond: ‘You’re never alone with a book’

Screen favourite and star of the hit comedy show Minx, Ophelia Lovibond, joins our lovely host Vick Hope on this week’s episode of The Women’s Prize Podcast. Ophelia talks about her 5 favourite books, from Virginia Woolf kick-starting her love for modernist fiction to Christina Rossetti’s poetry dragging her out of one of the darkest times of her life. Listen to this week’s illuminating episode in full here.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

When sixteen-year-old Janie is caught kissing shiftless Johnny Taylor, her grandmother swiftly marries her off to an old man with…

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‘I just was so impressed by Janie and her fortitude and tenacity to believe. She had this ardent desire in the healing power of love. She says it somewhere, “the dream is the truth” and she kind of sticks by this adage. I just found that incredibly inspiring, just thought she was such an impressive person to become friends with. You felt like you were becoming friends with her.’

Play It As It Lays

A profoundly disturbing novel that ruthlessly dissects American life in the late 1960s, from the author of The White Album…

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‘What I found so arresting about it was the deceptive simplicity of it. For example, some of the chapters are a few sentences and that’s it and I would find that the thoughts between the words would linger in my mind, hang like vivid paintings that I would need to close the book and allow those to ruminate for a while before I moved on to the next chapter.’

To The Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse is at once a vivid impressionistic depiction of a family holiday, and a meditation on marriage, on parenthood…

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‘[Woolf] was able to articulate ideas that I knew I had, but they were too murky to identify. Upon reading, Woolf, it was like a light was shone on those ideas and I could see them clearly. The satisfaction, the swell that you experience when you see your thoughts articulated on a page and the recognition, you feel like you’re having a real communion with this person, and it’s quite magical, really.


On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

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‘I was completely spellbound by this book and was just devastated. It’s almost unbearable, the kind of the aching beauty on its pages. I’d read it fortuitously by the sea in Cornwall, which, you know, was the was the ideal setting because it felt so elemental. The way O’Farrell builds a sense of place. I still think about the characters in that book, they still occupy space in my mind and I know that sounds absurd, but they really do.’


Rossetti is unique among Victorian poets for the sheer range of her subject matter and the variety of her verse…

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‘This poem, in particular, was a lifeline of sorts for me. My friend, Caroline, took her own life a few years ago… it was so difficult to understand what had happened and accept what had happened. And I just was reading, trying to keep myself afloat, and I read this poem, and it was like someone reached in and just pulled me out of something dangerous. The power of that poem to keep me afloat is extraordinary.’

Want to learn more about Ophelia Lovibond’s Bookshelfie choices? Listen to the full episode here.

And if you still want more from Ophelia, join us on the 1st of March for a rare screening of The London Library’s short film adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Ophelia will be joined by activist Scarlett Curtis, writer Abi Dare and screenwriter Linda Marshall Griffiths to delve into Woolf’s seminal text. Buy tickets here. You don’t want to miss it!

Want more amazing episodes like this one? Be sure to check out our podcast archive with guests like award-winning actress Gillian Anderson and trailblazing filmmaker Nia DaCosta. Click that subscribe button to make sure you never miss out on an episode.

The Women's Prize Podcast

Tune into host Vick Hope and a line-up of incredible guests on our weekly podcast full of unmissable book recommendations.