A NEW book reimagining a Thomas Hardy classic draws inspiration from Salisbury for its setting.

The Islanders is written by F J Campbell, who previously lived in Salisbury, and reimagines Far From The Madding Crowd for a new generation of readers. The idea for the book was inspired when she was at a book club while living in Munich in 2014, as Campbell explains.

“They wanted to read a Thomas Hardy novel and asked me - the token English person - which one I would recommend. No hesitation from me - it had to be Far from the Madding Crowd. So we read it and discussed it and all the time I was thinking, “This story is so modern and the heroine, Bathsheba Everdene, is such a great feminist character”, and an idea to re-write the book came to me. The strength of her character was my inspiration and the fact that I know the area where it was set so well also inspired me.

“Thomas Hardy is one of my favourite authors and I love the way he uses fictional Wessex for his novels. It was so much fun to set The Islanders in ‘Wessex’ too, giving me an area with which to work, but also the freedom to make up entirely new places and let me imagination go crazy.

“Hardy fans will know that Salisbury is called Melchester and I couldn’t resist setting some of the story in Melchester, where I lived for a few years when I was younger.

Campbell says: “The Islanders is a young adult novel but I think that people of all ages will enjoy it (I’m in my forties and I loved writing it, after all). It follows the plot of the original fairly closely, with an added storyline to spice things up a bit. I’ve set it at the end of the 1980s, beginning of 1990s, so it’s modern but there’s a big dollop of nostalgia in there for those of us who remember that time.

“Local readers might enjoy the fact that it’s set in the area, with one of the characters, Milo, working as a waiter at Salisbury Racecourse (which I also did one summer when I was younger); and Beth, another character, living in Salisbury.”

Other writing projects in the pipeline for Campbell include a sequel to No Number Nine and a speculative fiction novel.