So as the summer makes its belated arrival here in Europe and we look forward to a digital detox on a beach or somewhere sufficiently remote to be out of reach of social media here are some summer reading suggestions that I hope are helpful. Or you may be heading to Glastonbury with Mrs May..
LOVE IS BLIND – William Boyd
There is absolutely no need to go anywhere with this book as it does it all for you. From Edinburgh to Paris to St Petersburg to Nice and finally …well, I wont spoil it for you but you sometimes get the feeling Mr Boyd just sticks a pin in a globe for his next chapter and that’s where the master story teller takes us. A wonderful writer and a wonderful read that transports you all round Europe and avoids Ryanair.
THE VAN – Roddy Doyle
Not exactly a travel book but from the writer of The Commitments this is another absurd comedy of the commonplace. And because it’s set in Dublin it is automatically funny and will have you giggling in your sun-bed.
THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE – Thomas Hardy
Ok, I come from Dorchester [Casterbridge] and went to Hardye’s School [our Hardye was a pirate and neither wrote novels or kissed Nelson as the other famous Dorset Hardys did but he founded a school on the back of his brandy proceeds]. Anyway this is one of Hardy’s more accessible novels and whilst not exactly a bodice ripping Poldark of a yarn it is a sad full circle of fate description of one man’s destiny based on a fatal decision. Such is life for those of us from Hardy country who are perhaps more aware than most of Thomas’s favourite subjects of fate, alcohol, poverty and down-trodden women.
DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON – George Orwell
One of George’s more accessible novels and it also covers the 2 cities we miss most living in rural France. This novel along with 1984 brought Orwell world wide fame, albeit sadly in the last years of his life. If you happen to be sitting in your above water villa in the Maldives then you will enjoy it even more for this description of a life of near destitution and rabid poverty in two of the world’s great cities. It will help you redefine luxury and realise that it’s not hi speed internet access but rather how you see the world. That is luxury.
THE MAGUS – John Fowles
The perfect holiday read really as you will have plenty of time to figure what the heck it’s all about. Best read accompanied by a cold bottle of Greek Limnonia – a very good wine and not to be confused with Retsina. This is a real 70s novel – the first he wrote but the 3rd he published so for us mid 70s Uni students this was a compulsory part of the curriculum of life whilst sleeping on the beach in Corfu. I think. Read the book.
AMSTERDAM – Ian McEwan
Probably his easiest, lightest most enjoyable book although Chesil Beach was shorter. Anything by McEwan makes for great holiday reading and like Boyd you often wonder how on earth he came up with such a ridiculous idea for a novel. I mean – Nutshell – really!? This is a dark subject – euthanasia – but again will make you enjoy your over water villa that much more as a result. Then you’ll be hooked on McEwan for ever.
POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE – Carrie Fisher
Darkness through the light. Or is it the other way round. Drugs, sex, rock and roll, love and insecurity. Hollywood. OK you could read a Jackie Collins novel but that wouldn’t be a good look on the plane or on the beach so at least this looks reasonably highbrow and as the cover says ‘It makes Moby Dick look like a big fat dumb book’. If you roll over on your sunbed and see Harvey Weinstein then you’re probably reading The Magus and not this book.
A WEEK IN DECEMBER – Sebastian Faulks
Post Birdsong Faulks became a bit of a ‘marmite’ writer. Nothing in between. He doesn’t always come up with such an amazing story line as Birdsong but this can’t detract from his qualities as a superb writer. So mid July on the beach is the best time to read about London in the weeks leading up to Xmas? By intertwining the London lives of a footballer, a tube train driver, a hedge fund manager and ok a few others you will be led a merry dance round the Circle Line and forget where you are. Good holiday reading right?
PARTING SHOTS – Matthew Paris and Andrew Bryson
As the Yorkshire Post said – Unbuttoned, Indiscreet and Very Funny. I couldn’t put it better myself and even if you read the one letter from the UK Ambassador to Russia about his Turkish counterpart Mustafa K*unt then it will have been worth the ten quid you spent on this book. Totally not politically correct but based on the final despatches of British ambassadors and their views on the countries they had come to know from a position of privilege. The perfect travel book as it takes you on a world tour of British Embassies.
BORN A CRIME – Trevor Noah
This Noah chap is very funny and very clever and is an illegal child from a spiteful regime. Apartheid. An African mother and a Swiss father and now a successful US TV chat show host and stand up comedian these are his recollections of a South African childhood, being dragged around Johannesburg from church to church by his inspirational mum. How wonderful to read a novel that addresses a shameful period in history but in such a light hearted indeed hilarious fashion. Perfect if you are sitting by your plunge pool in the Kruger.