Last month I had a lovely week’s holiday in the French countryside and spent much of it lying by the pool glancing up at the beautiful scenery and reading a pile of books I’d bought in anticipation of a holiday of lying around for a change. I really enjoy reading actual paperbacks rather than reading on kindle on my commute – nothing beats holding an actual book in one hand and a cold drink in the other.
I started with some complete escapism and very easy reading. On day one, as the others went out to the local French market to get provisions, I lay in blissful solitude in the sun and started reading Amy Snow by Tracy Rees. It’s a book written to a formula I really enjoy – a mystery set in the past (this time the mid 1800s) involving a slow uncovering of a family secret. I’ve read a lot of these kind of books before (see my blogs on some escapist reading, The Seven Sisters, The Italian Girl, Sally Beauman, The Midnight Rose and Hothouse Flower) and like the others, this is a book that does exactly what it says on the tin. What’s really happened becomes apparent fairly early on, but that didn’t take away any of my enjoyment of it. It’s also set in Twickenham where I used to live and Bath which I love, and as soon as I finished it I passed it on to my friend Sarah who we were on holiday with.
Next up was The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. Having read and enjoyed The Night Watch last year (see my blog) I bought this because I knew it would be well written and because it involved a murder and I do like a bit of crime fiction (see my blog on my addiction to crime fiction). It’s very good but it’s not a nice read. The slow build up to something awful happening is done brilliantly, the tension means it was perhaps not the best book to read when relaxing in the sun, but it was un-put-down-able. It’s the story of a woman trying to look after her mother and keep the two of them financially afloat in the family home after the death of her father and brother, who has to take in paying guests in the spare bedroom upstairs. What starts as a romance between her and the woman upstairs gets increasingly darker and much more complicated. Once the worst has happened, it’s uncomfortable being a spectator and it’s very cleverly done – you end up not knowing whose side to be on or what you want the outcome to be.
Things lightened up on book three, Funny Girl by Nick Hornby. I’ve always enjoyed his writing, as a fellow Arsenal fan and former Highbury dweller, and the back of this one sounded good so I picked it up. It’s about a young women from Blackpool who moves to London in the 60s and successfully glides into a successful career in television. It’s fun, extremely well written and effortless to read. I really enjoyed it and it was a book that somehow felt quite life-affirming.
Finally I started Us by David Nicholls. Like much of the rest of the reading public in the UK I loved his bestseller One Day, though felt quite sad for some time after finishing it. Its following of one couple’s relationship over two decades made me think a lot about life at the time. So I was a bit trepidatious about picking this one up, but decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did as it is really excellent. It’s about a relationship in crisis as a marriage of twenty years is thrown up in the air and the couple embark, along with their teenage son, on a grand tour of Europe. The drama takes place in various European cities and trains across Europe and David Nicholls brilliantly gets you to see the situation from everyone’s different point of view. No one is the villain here, it’s just an all too real feeling story of mismatched views of the world. But its ending left me feeling uplifted rather than sad this time.
I finished it lying by another pool in the late September sun, this time in Bath on a girls spa weekend. It was great to be able to immediately pass it on to my friend Lou, something else you can’t do when you’ve read a good book on kindle. These four paperbacks turned out to be perfect holiday reading.