There are so many potentially wonderful reads in this week’s Bite Size compilation of Holiday Reads, I don’t quite know where to start, but my list of ‘books to get around to’ grows ever longer and more interesting:- We might have guessed we’d be mining a rich vein asking an audience, predominantly of writers and keen readers to see what memories popped up in relation to reading on holiday..
There’s everything from naming of daughters to being better than sex oozing out here, along with ghosts and food and a tantalising list of other’s choicest tomes. Some reads are almost accidental, some well considered either to connect with spirit, location or pure imagination. Choosing one memory that stands out amongst the rest was easy for some, impossible for others – I had the luxury of playing with both and many also took that opportunity in postings which I urge you to visit and feast upon..
..Feast upon leads me to consider the metaphors by which we consider our reading, for some gathering facts or mining information is a primary concern. For others we love to be transported to different places or different lives. Knowing I couldn’t possibly be the first to consider reading in metaphorical terms and wondering too what metaphors others might choose to describe reading, I tried our old friend the search engine..
My own metaphors are usually around escape, transportation, feasting, soaking up and gathering. I wondered what more there could be to it! I thought you might all be interested in this research on students by Laurence Musgrove, Professor of English and foreign languages at Chicago University “Metaphors We Read By”.
Oliver – UK – ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’
I first read that phrase on a well remembered holiday so many years ago that the person I was did not really understand the force of those words. Such a simple phrase. A dream of a poorly remembered event. But as we go on through life, the dreams become loaded. The slow accretion of memories and memories of strong emotions that become who we are today. We suppress them, perhaps, or celebrate them and magnify them out of all proportion to become that singular moment that defines who we are. But then we have treacherous dreams that tell us what we were and what we might have been and frequently, what have we have lost.
Daphne du Maurier’s dream of an impossibly perfect ideal of womanhood lay at the centre of another’s insanity. Yet I bought into that insanity. I must have done. I called my daughter Rebecca.
I remember reading The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath) with my sister as we sunbathed by the sea, until a man asked if he could take our photos in tinier swimsuits.
I remember Thomas Cook’s European Railway Timetable leaving me no time for novels as we tried to cover the continent in our allotted twenty-eight days.
I remember deluding myself I could relax with a novel in the original Spanish on a beach holiday.
I remember reading about tea with the vicar in Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women as prayer flags flapped in the breeze at a temple near Kathmandu.
I don’t remember reading Tagore in Calcutta or Mahfouz in Cairo or Tsitsi Dangarembga in Harare though the evidence resides on my bookshelves.
I remember the first day out for a walk with the man who is now my husband when he read me poetry though I can’t remember what it was.
I remember reading Eight Feet in the Andes by Dervla Murphy in the Andes and realising I wasn’t an intrepid traveller after all.
I remember hiding from the hot afternoon in our cabin in the Etosha National Park in Namibia to read The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, unaware that the caretaker had taken it upon himself to hose down our hire car. If this were fiction, I’d have been reading about water conservation or masters and servants or the cruelty of apartheid instead.
I remember how I cried at the end of Bel Canto (Ann Patchett) on the flight home from a holiday in Patagonia that I should never have gone on.
I don’t remember what I read in that picturesque Dorset cottage but, if you’re heading that way, Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier should put you in the right frame of mind for fossil hunting on the Jurassic Coast.
My holiday reads now are books I can access on my iPad or leave behind on completing. I always take too many and end up reading few. As a child holiday reads were a bone of contention. Our beachside holidays would consist of the other members of my family laying in bed all morning reading their books and eating their Xmas chocolates whilst I annoyed them all, agitating to go to the beach. Books during the day did not hold me, not when there were sand castles to build and surfing to partake of. I pleaded for everyone to arise but even threatening to hang myself moved no-one from their books except my brother, who stirred out of bed to watch. It only gave him something to crow about as my attempt failed because I tied a slip knot in my noose. Luckily, I had not yet read “How to tie knots”.
The Archaeologist and I were sent to our Gran’s for the Easter holidays during the back end of the 1960s. It gave our parents a break; we loved it too, because after breakfast we were sent out and given the run of Herne Bay, a seaside resort on the north Kent coast. We would have been 8 and 9 I’d guess. Mostly it was fun but one black spot was the daily trip to the library for the Archaeologist to find a new book or two. Jane Austen or Conan Doyle. I moaned, obviously to good effect because he worked hard to find something to shut me up. Finally it worked; nether of us can remember the title or the author after so many years but we do recall the Happenings that formed a central part to each story. From there, all I needed was a genre of my own…
I specifically asked Sweet Husband for the most basic of e-readers – black and white and no ability to get online to “play” – just to download books. He came through for me, and when we head to the beach on either a random Saturday or a weekend vacation, the Nook goes with me. Last Thursday when sitting on the beach at Perdido Key, I continued to make headway with The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood. I randomly picked the book because it was the start of baseball season, and I love baseball.
About 10 years ago, I made the switch to reading predominately non-fiction. There’s just something about finding out the real story – whether it is good or bad. I enjoy a good novel, but non-fiction is really my bag. The Last Boy is filled with excellent story-telling, as compelling as any fiction…and it’s true.
Norah Colvin – Australia – Bony and the Black Virgin
One holiday reading I do recall is from when I was about thirteen and was into a series of Arthur Upfield stories about an Aboriginal detective called Napoleon Bonaparte – the Bony stories. The one I was reading when visiting my aunt in the country was called ‘Bony and the Black Virgin’ (quite politically incorrect now, but not so much then). My aunt was horrified thinking I was reading something lewd and totally inappropriate. “Does your mother know you are reading these?’ she asked. I assured her it was okay. My mother did know, and the books were ‘harmless’. It took a little convincing but I finally assured her the book was not going to make me morally corrupt!
We were set up by well-intentioned friends.
We liked each other enough to go duck hunting the next day, and two days later he invited me to his small house for duck dinner. He’d been working so let me in and said he needed to shower. I could smell roasting duck as I settled into the only chair in his living-room/kitchen. I always had a book with me and I sat down to read, “Daughters of Cameron,” an historical romance novel.
His bedroom door didn’t sit right in the frame so I remember looking up to catch a glimpse of his nude body as he passed by after his shower. Back then, he was a rugby-god-army-ranger-farm-boy. I almost bolted from the house; romance better left to books. I stayed. We ate dinner, he noticed my book, grabbed his hardcover classic and for the rest of the evening we read together.
Moored up in a cosy inlet, the winds that earlier had provided a full day’s sailing had died to a breath and Barton Broad lay as smooth as glass.
Orange skies darkened and a light mist danced across the waters. Conversation and laughter echoed beyond the riverbanks, then silence.
I don’t know who saw it first, but in seconds we were all standing on the gunwale, watching.
It was almost dark now, no wind and boating after sunset was forbidden, if not impossible without navigation lights.
A yacht, in full sail as the waters lapped at its bow, forged ahead in the darkness, the moon giving the merest hint of reflection in the water. No helmsman in sight, yet the sails billowed.
We gaped in hushed disbelief, not comprehending this eerie encounter. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the yacht vanished, swallowed up by the mist.
Just like that.
Lisa Reiter – UK – The Island
I had a second hand copy of Victoria Hislop’s, The Island, sitting on a shelf for at least two years before going to Crete at Easter in 2012. Up til then it hadn’t appealed enough and anyway, it was a Richard and Judy ‘Summer Read’. The starting premise seemed poor for what turned out to be a hauntingly good book.
We sailed grimly across to Spinalonga imagining the one-way journey taken by the inhabitants of the leper colony, closed in 1957. I wandered through ‘Dante’s Gate’ and now familiar but thankfully deserted streets. I peered into surprisingly everyday lives through ordinary shop windows, individual houses with gardens and vegetable patches. I stared, eyes smarting, at the iron bedsteads still in the small hospital.
I took Hislop’s characters with me. I imagined their pain, physical and emotional and wept for them with the real outcastes buried in functional, unmarked graves.
Sitting under the shade of my umbrella
Lying on my blanket with my books
reading and listening to the waves
I ponder words of
spirit, love, understanding and forgiveness
I try to let go of anger as I soak in the sea salt air
anger that is ever under the surface
waiting to unleash its wrath
waiting to sabotage myself and those around me
reading to learn to let go
reading to learn to love myself again
reading to learn to lighten up
reading books such as
The Bond Between Women
The Language of Love
Real Magic and
When I was at school, we had a very good school library, and during the summer holidays, I was an assiduous visitor to my local library. I remember Victoria Holt’s historical fiction and biographies enwrapped me for a few summers, together with Daphne du Maurier.
At University I read mostly French and Spanish literature, and a great deal of English theatre, which was my passion, at the time. During the summer, I was probably having fun, and as far as I can remember, not reading too much.
When my three children were little, I was a working mum. I remember buying books throughout the year and storing them on a bookshelf (I do the same now, except I store them mostly on my kindle instead!), in no particular order, to read during the summer holidays. I loved detective and crime fiction, Ruth Rendell and Minnette Walters were my favourites for years.
Now, my summers are no longer holidays, I write!
Reading isn’t high on my agenda while holidaying because I love soaking up the surroundings and just be. Light reading at a new destination is usually confined to information from the tourist centre or local newspapers.
If I do need to take ‘heavier’ reading material, I’d select Tolkien’s The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. I clearly remember my first read ofThe Hobbit.
I borrowed it from the Hamilton High School library. At home, gob-smacked from the opening lines, I followed mum around the house, while she cleaned, and read beloved paragraphs to her. Mum wasn’t impressed. I reread that magic opening paragraph over and over again. My love of the fantasy genre began with this book.
I’m really taken with Smaug, the talking dragon. Although I’ve heard dragons are now considered cliché, I can’t imagine myself writing fantasy without adding my own creations: just need a difference.