Five... Books About Holidays
This may be cruel, as the summer quietly dies, but (if it helps) some of these holidays are far from desirable...
1.) The Enchanted April (1922) by Elizabeth von Arnim
In brief: Four seemingly incompatible women join each other for a month in beautiful Italy - which has a powerful effect on them all.
From my review: "The castle is described beautifully, and especially the garden - attention drawn often to the wistaria, which happens to be my favourite plant. Everywhere is brightly sunny, airy, thick with the scent of flowers and bursting with nature. It could have been horribly overdone, but E von A strikes just the right note."
2.) Illyrian Spring (1935) by Ann Bridge
In brief: Another idyllic trip to Italy sets off an intriguing friendship between (Lady) Grace Kilmichael and young artist Nicholas. Heavy on snobbery, but made up for by being simply beautiful.
From my review: "There are a few, a very few, authors who manage to write about the visual in ways which focus upon characters' emotions and their responses, even if this isn't stated explicitly, and that works for me. I'm thinking the moment when Jude looks out over Christminster in Jude the Obscure, and more or less every moment of Elizabeth von Arnim's The Enchanted April. Ann Bridge joins that select few, for me."
3.) The Great Western Beach (2008) by Emma Smith
In brief: A lovely childhood memoir of visits to Cornwall, which manages to be joyful despite some tough subject matter.
From my review: "I think the most useful way I can write about this book is to describe the style. First person, but neither from the author's current perspective, nor from the child's. It is all written as though she were looking back at the events from a distance of only a couple years - some hindsight and analysis is permitted, but alongside childhood ignorance of certain things, and a child's language."
4.) Straw Without Bricks (1937) by E.M. Delafield
In brief: Not a traditional holiday, perhaps, but here Delafield casts her witty and sensible eye over Soviet Russia, even living in a commune.
From my review: "This is certainly not the 'funny book' that her publisher was hoping for. Delafield's own political leanings were to the left, though not as far as Communism, and she treats the country and its inhabitants seriously. Much of this is with a subdued horror - at the indoctrination, the lack of freedom, the systematic removal of beauty and individualism - but she never makes Communism's adherents appear ridiculous. The humour is often directed towards her fellow tourists, or such quintessentially British anxieties as having to wait around for something to happen, or wondering how to pass someone one is keen not to engage in trivial conversation."
5.) Beside the Sea (2001) by Veronique Olmi
In brief: Easily the darkest of these books, a mother struggles with two young sons while staying in a dingy hotel beside the sea.
From my review: "I was initially thrown by the tone of the novel, being so different from what I expected - and I did worry that it would be like so many other novels, in a 'real' voice which is so jarring and unsatisfying. But Olmi is much cleverer than that - though the reader might think at the start that this is an average mother, it is soon obvious that she is not. Unreliable narrators always make for interesting reading, and this one gives away only so much - and how much of that is true or reasonable is difficult to gauge..."
|a gold star if you can spot the pun... ahem.|
As always - over to you! These themes are just to make us think a bit out of the box, or make unusual connections between books we've read, so... holidays in fact or fiction, folk?