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My Fantasy Bookshelf: Finding Alice’s Isabella Pappas shares the books which influenced her life and career

From The Handmaid's Tale to Americanah, the Finding Alice actor discusses her favourite books.

My Fantasy Bookshelf Isabella Pappas Finding Alice

Isabella Pappas is an Olivier-nominated actor seen on the stage as well as the screen in Paranoid, Home and Almost Never.

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Now, Pappas joins the stellar Finding Alice cast fronted by Keeley Hawes (Alice) and also featuring Joanna Lumley and Nigel Havers.

Pappas plays Charlotte, the daughter of Alice (Hawes) and the soon-to-be late Harry (Jason Merrells), as the pair cope with his loss and the secrets which emerge following Harry’s death.

Below, Isabella Pappas shares the books which have inspired her and now earn a spot on her Fantasy Bookshelf.

She shares the book she read between scenes backstage, the story she believes can break hearts and rebuild them again, plus the quote which has resonated with her most during lockdown.

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What was your favourite book growing up?

A Series of Unfortunate Events was one of my most prized possessions, I would rampage through the series. I would read at the library when there was a new edition and be the first to check it out.

I grew up on a small farm in the middle of a rural town so it was truly an escape for me. I wanted more than anything to be Violet Baudelaire because she invented things all the time and I tried inventing things but mine didn’t work.

What was the last book you couldn’t put down?

The Handmaid’s Tale. I read it while performing every night at the Donmar [Warehouse Theatre]. I would read it backstage and try to fit in another chapter before I went on stage. I think it truly scares you into realising a lot of ugly truths about the way the world could go.

If you could star in an adaptation as any character, who would it be?

Antigone by Sophocles. The pain, the betrayal and the sacrifices are truly mesmerising and it’s timeless, I feel like it could be modernised in a really exciting way.

Isabella Pappas Keely Hawes Finding Alice
Isabella Pappas and Keeley Hawes for ITV’s Finding Alice.
ITV

Which is the one book you would tell everyone in the world to read?

The Giving Tree. It’s a children’s book and it will break your heart and then slowly piece it back together. It’s about humanity, not just being human, but being in the world around us in nature. I think it’s really important, with climate change and all the things that are happening, for a younger generation to be reading because it really makes you appreciate what we’ve been given.

Which quote from a novel have you found most poignant?

One which resonates with me especially after COVID and lockdown is, “We thought we had such problems, how were we to know we were happy?” which is Margret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale. The book is full of good quotes but I think that one is really relevant today.

What have you read which has inspired your career in performing?

Attempts on Her Life by Martin Crimp is such a beautiful play.

The way that the dialogue is crafted just makes me want to tell the story and it’s just one of the plays that, as an actor, you really are itching to perform. I think it pushed me definitely towards acting and I think it really renews your passion for storytelling.

Is there a character you wish you could be more like in real life?

The play Emilia by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm. It’s based on the real Emilia Bassano and her life. She was said to have aided Shakespeare in coming up with a lot of the bigger concepts for his play but then she was given no credit.

She had to battle not only the men who oppressed her but also other perceptions of her because Shakespeare makes his own judgement in Othello, by writing her into the play. I think it’s a really beautiful piece.

Isabella Pappas Finding Alice
Isabella Pappas as character Charlotte Walsh.
ITV

What is the best reading recommendation you’ve ever been given?

The best reading recommendation I’ve ever been given was Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. It has such a stigma around it but I decided to sit down and read it without any other judgments following about in my head. I think the reason it had such an impact is because Dolores is such a complex female character and she completely undermines tropes of the time.

Which book has made you think about something differently?

Purple Hibiscus is such a beautiful, heartbreaking book that I think everyone should read. It made me see the world differently because it was such a learning curve. It made me realise that a book doesn’t have to be centred around my culture and my circumstances for me to be able to relate to it.

It’s just so heartbreaking and overwhelmingly beautiful in its descriptions. It’s full of these amazing adjectives that you just eat up every time.

What are you excited to read next?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an amazing author, she wrote Americanah which I’m really looking forward to reading.

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Finding Alice airs on Sunday 17th January at 9pm on ITV – check out what else is on with our TV Guide

Isabella Pappa’s Fantasy Bookshelf

A Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Atwood

Antigone by Sophocles

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Attempts on Her Life by Martin Crimp

Emilia by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie