After recently returning from my holiday in Naples and reading Naples ’44, I got to thinking about some of my most memorable holiday reads. Packing is always difficult when going away, but one of the most important things is to pack the correct books. Everybody has a holiday reading list, usually books they haven’t had time to open and want to be able to fully relax with. If there is one thing I have learnt, it’s that the enjoyable books are not always the most memorable books that you might read on holiday.
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
My brother lent me this book just before I left for a long weekend in Hartington in the Peak District. We stayed at Hartington Hall, a beautiful old building turned into a youth hostel. The surrounding area was tranquil and the weather was perfectly sunny for taking long walks and sitting for hours, reading on a picnic blanket.
When my brother handed me the book, he said rather ominously, “It’s not what you’d expect… But I don’t want to give it away… Just read it and let me know what you think.” I was intrigued and couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
Never Let Me Go, is probably the most unsettling book I have ever read. The book is set in a boarding school and follows the life of Kathy and her friends. Throughout the beginning of the story, you have a creeping suspicion that not everything is as it seems and indeed, the story gradually becomes more and more sinister. I also found it a very depressing book, but couldn’t seem to stop reading.
I have never actually recommended Never Let Me Go to anyone, but it is worth a go… Just not when you’re on holiday!
The Slow Train To Milan – Lisa St Aubin
My uncle ‘saw this book and thought of me’ while I was living in Milan. I saved it for a trip I was planning to take with some friends down to Florence and Siena on the slow, six hour train. It was a memorable trip and a memorable book.
The Slow Train To Milan tells of Lisa, who at only 16 marries a Venezuelan aristocrat, who she met on the street. And that is just the start of her exciting and odd life. She travels around Europe and settles in Milan with her husband and a couple of his friends. Together they have adventures, break the law many times over and live in miserable apartments, often surviving on very little food. This is the perfect book to read while travelling around Italy on a rather dirty train!
Travels With My Aunt – Graham Greene
Another book read while travelling in Italy. This time my train journeys were taking me further south to Rome, Sorrento and Capri. On the way home, I managed to get a comfortable seat on a quite empty train and spent my time reading, eating and sleeping.
At his mother’s funeral, quiet and conventional Henry, meets for the first time in decades, his Aunt Augusta. After all these years, Henry and his adventurous aunt get to know each other and soon Henry finds himself getting dragged into her reckless and exhilarating life. Together, they travel across the world, gradually creating a bond that will never be broken.
Yet another perfect book to get you in the mood for travelling!
The Secret Life Of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd
I read this book mostly while sitting in the sun on a balcony in Rome. I wasn’t strictly on holiday as I was au pairing but while reading this, I sure felt as though I were on holiday.
The Secret Life of Bees is set in 1960s South Carolina and follows a girl and her Black maid, who run away from home to escape her violent father and the police. They find their way to three kind sisters, April, June and May, who help the two runaways and introduce them to the life of bee keeping and honey making.
This is a lovely story and made me want to run away and make honey!
Charlotte Gray – Sebastian Faulks
I didn’t enjoy this book as much as some of the other books I’ve mentioned. It is exactly what you expect from Faulks; sex, a sweeping romance, the French Resistance… I started the book while travelling in a van around Europe. I just so happened to be in France, driving south from Paris. As the French countryside passed by, I saw the names of small towns which were mentioned in the book. This brought Charlotte Gray alive in my mind and I could imagine her surroundings vividly. I’m not sure that I would have enjoyed it as much in any other place.