Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fictional Holidays

unhappy holiday image
Southend beach, July 1953. Photograph: Bert Hardy/Getty Images
You are now on holiday! If you are not going anywhere interesting yourself, what about escaping with a book about a holiday? Here are a few suggestions to get you going. All are available at JCU Library in hard copy and some as an eBook. Let me know if you have any other favourites.

The Holiday by Stevie Smith
The poet Stevie Smith, who lived with her aunt in Palmers Green, north London, memorably declared: "Travel narrows the mind." Yet in this delightful novel (her favourite), she packs Celia's bags for Lincolnshire where she visits her Uncle Heber, a vicar. She also gives Celia an Indian background and Lincolnshire is fancifully reconsidered: "I have the feeling it is India before me and not England; it is warmer, it grows warm and close, the night has a wild smell, a smell of dung, of sour smoke, of a magnolia, of a heavy scent..."

A Room with a View / eBook by EM Forster
Lucy Honeychurch, an upper-middle-class English woman, and her chaperone complain on arrival at Pension Bertolini in Florence (their room faces north, the meat served is second rate) but it is upon them that Forster turns his amusing and critical eye. The 1908 classic now reads as at once dated and fresh: "People told them what to see, when to see it, how to stop the electric trams, how to get rid of the beggars, how much to give for a vellum blotter..." Lucy surrenders to "the pernicious charm of Italy" and begins to be happy.

The Enchanted April / eBook by Elizabeth von Arnim
Italian holidays get more than their fair share of literary attention but this uplifting novel is unmissable -- reading it is almost as good as taking a holiday oneself. It begins with an advertisement in the Times : "To Those Who Appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine. Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let furnished for the months of April." A comically assorted group of women fetch up in the castle where each finds a happier version of herself. And because this is consummate gardener Elizabeth von Arnim writing, the castle's garden is an Eden.

Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
The hotel on the shores of Lake Geneva is, in a sense, a school. At least, it is the setting in which Edith Hope, an unmarried English woman in flight from an improper love affair, endures a sentimental education, spending her nights in a "veal-coloured" bedroom. Summer is almost over and each day contains "the seeds of its own fragility", as if in sympathy with Edith herself. The novel won the Booker prize in 1984 and has not lost its melancholy power nor its unassailable elegance. It is the most autumnal of holidays with a low-season heroine.

The Beach by Alex Garland
The atmosphere of this unforgettably unsettling, bestselling novel is also what happens when people live on holiday and off-limits – beyond themselves. It is an idyll turned inside out. When Richard, a British backpacker, is given a map by a mysterious Scotsman about a hidden beach on the gulf of Thailand, inaccessible to tourists, it sounds like paradise. But what follows is a hip, drug-laden, grown-up version of Lord of the Flies. Chapter titles read as if torn from a breezy tourist guide: “Getting there” and “Beach life”.

Kellaway, K. (2015, June 19). The 10 best fictional holidays. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/jun/19/the-10-best-fictional-holidays

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