Holiday Reading for Every Eventuality
It’s been a while since my last post – that’s because my boys have been at home and we’ve been enjoying some family time together. I’ve also been busy organising a launch and networking event for the blog in the autumn (which I’m beyond excited about), as well as getting to grips with a new semi-pro, mirrorless camera I bought recently – hybrid autofocus system anyone? Anyway, excuses, excuses (but valid ones!) However, what I’m really gearing up for now is a much-needed family holiday to Valencia, Spain in a few weeks. So this got me thinking about what kind of books I’d like to read during my break and the different genres suit that might suit a destination. I toyed with buying ‘Driving Over Lemons’ (the Spanish answer to ‘A Year in Provence’), but that seemed too obvious and anyway I’m not going to Andalucia. But more than anything, I’ve realised I really need to pick up the slack when it comes to my reading habits. Before the days of Instagram, I’d spend evenings, blissfully detached from the endless digital scrolling, reading high and lowbrow novels and feeling fully and deliciously immersed – a mindfulness in itself. I was truly happy I think and memories of contented, cosy tranches of time in my life do seem to also be connected with books. I’m a little sad that this seems to have diminished along with my concentration span. I’m convinced that everything is cyclical though and this is part of my learning process and that I’ll one day come back to books, full-time and soon.
So, holidays and reading material. The little photo vignette below shows a selection of some of my favourite and most recent reads (complete with BOGOF stickers and the like).
‘The Girls’ by Emma Cline. I enjoyed every sentence of this one. ‘The Girls’ has all the hallmarks of the ideal beach holiday book, but so much more. It’s fairly short and punchy and yes a bit of a page-turner, with a wonderful understanding of the adolescent mind. A coming of age set in the hazy days of 1960s California. It was so evocative of what I imagined and previously read this era to be like, it almost had it’s own soundtrack. It’s the Mamas and Papas crossed with the Manson murders and completely compelling. On that basis, it would also suit a US road trip – I’m thinking the beautiful places and spaces North of San Francisco (Russian River Valley and Napa) – where there are still enclaves of 1960s hippiedom alive and well.
‘The Fall’ by Simon Mawer. This is one for the Brecon Beacons and Dartmoor. A camping holiday in Snowdonia or Suffolk. The climbing aficionados among you will revel in the thrilling descriptions of the art of scaling high peaks and escarpments alike, as well as the particular culture that surrounds these kinds of dangerous pursuits. It’s also a tale of loss, regret and yearning. Loved it.
‘The Book of Jewish Food’ by Claudia Roden. This is a staycation tome, a forever tome really. If you love food, food history and cultural history, this is an absolute must for your bookshelf. I’ve heard it’s one of Nigella Lawson’s favourite books (well if it’s good enough for Nigella) and this really doesn’t surprise me. That lady is so erudite – I once watched her in a live TV audience for a channel four book show (I know, pretentious) and her knowledge and words were so high fallutin’ she was asked to tone it down by producers and her section had to be re-recorded. Anyway, this book is beautifully warm in its approach with tales from all over the globe including beloved Jewish aunts living happily in Cairo amongst all religions, prominent families in the Austro-Hungarian empire and the lost tribes of Israel to name a few. It beautifully depicts food as a way of passing down traditions and familial love and brings the recipes themselves to life. I’m not Jewish. Although sometimes I wish I were and love to play the archetypal Jewish mum to my boys and cook a roast chicken from time to time on Fridays and smother them in schmaltz (not literally!) and maternal affection. 😉
‘1-2-3 Magic’ by Thomas W. Phelan. This is the book to pre-empt all those times your holiday has literally been ruined by your kids and there’s no path back to enjoyment. I consider myself to be a caring, considerate and hopefully fair parent but I’m only human and sometimes there’s only so much you can take before hitting the alcohol come 5pm (or earlier). Whether it’s by a pool under a lemon tree in Puglia or rocking ruefully back and forth in a cold, wet tent on the Isle of Wight (both real). Sometimes, it doesn’t matter where you are or how beautiful your surroundings, it can be hard to stomach constant infant tantrums and tiredness when you are all under pressure to ‘relax’. This book was recommended to me by a health professional when I was going through a particularly difficult time with one of my boys (who is high-functioning, mild Aspergers). I was finding it very hard at the time to get to grips with the volcanic tantrums (which he has now largely grown out of) and needed advice pronto. The lady who recommended this book told me she still used it on her teenagers to great effect. As the title suggests, it’s a simple premise, but like all great and simple ideas, has to be carried out properly to be effective. Recommended!
‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt. Well, what can I say? I’ve left the best until last. This is my September book. When the kids are back at school, everyone has had a break and peace and routine are restored to the household. It’s the literary equivalent of a pilgrimage – to where I don’t know but it’s so immersive you will come out the other side, satisfied and replete. ‘The Goldfinch’ is probably one of my favourite books of all time in my 43 years of living and 34 years of reading novels. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. The characters, the plot, the narrative, the humour – everything. Like a teenage crush where you aren’t sure if you fancy the boy for his sheer swagger or kooky looks or both – this book had the same effect on me. Strange, filmic, epic and truly touching, it has that typical trait in a brilliant book that leads you to believe you’ve thought of everything the writer has and that it’s somehow already ingrained in you. Enough said.
‘Top of the Lake – China Girl’ directed by Jane Campion. Thought I’d throw a little TV into the mix and mention this programme currently on BBC i-Player. Not as good as the first series set in New Zealand I thought, but still a compelling summer drama, with Elizabeth Moss being her normal brilliant self and a great turn from Nicole Kidman. Nicole Kidman’s character’s kitchen also deserves a mention for its Insta-worthy boho whiteness and wood look. The star turn however, has to go to the repugnant character of ‘Puss’ (David Dencik) – manipulative, infuriating, creepy and totally bizarre – he makes for very uncomfortable viewing.
If you have any recommendations for great books and TV/films, please let me know in the comments below or message me! I’d love to hear them. xxxx