I had some short stories, poems and photographs to share ... and so here I am

Holiday Novels

So - I hear you ask - what did Seamus choose to read while he was away on holiday? What? No one really wants to know? Sorry. But hey, I might as well continue with this thought now that I've got myself all fired up!

Did I sit down and nut out a logical, inspired collection of books to take away with me? Did I follow this year's advice on "the best novels to take away on holiday"? No! It was actually quite a random thing. I was running late - I am always running late - and the plane had already started her engines. I ummmed and ahhhhhhed in front of the bookshelf, my eyes almost turning inwards from all the pressure. I had wanted to read a non-fiction such as The Blair Years but then decided against it. In the end, these were the four books that fortified the corners of my suitcase:

Praying Mantis by André Brink. This is quite a departure for Brink. It's the story of Cupido Cockroach, a "drunk fornicator" raised on a Dutch farm deep in the African Cape in the late 1700s, who becomes the first ever Hottentot missionary. The writing is beautiful, full of what one reviewer called "African magic realism". I'm almost near the end.

Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson, an author based in New Zealand. This is the UK/US version of her book originally titled "Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs". It's a gem of a novel, which examines an unlikely friendship between an elderly recluse and a young writer struggling to get her life back on track after losing her partner.

Be Near Me by Andrew O'Hagan. I absolutely loved this one, probably because the story I'm working on is also about a priest. Here a young priest goes off the deep end, mixing in with a young, rebellious crowd after being posted to an isolated parish in Scotland. There is humour amongst the tragedy and this certainly had page-turning power.

The Ghost Writer by John Harwood. This was the easiest of my holiday reads. It was a suspense novel that had me guessing. It was perfect for lying on the beach, when I didn't want to have to work too hard or get too deeply involved in the story. The writing was good and the tale well structured.

But is there such a thing as a good holiday novel? Can these be defined as those that avoid the heavy issues and keep us light and fluffy? Or are they books that help us to escape, no matter what the subject? What do you read on holiday? Are you influenced by the newspapers and publishing houses that pump out holiday reading lists?

As I say, I tend to grab books off my shelf randomly at the start of my holidays, often because I'm late for the train or the plane. I should not, therefore, take part in any publishing surveys.


Verilion said...

When I lived in England and used to get the train up to London every weekend I used to see what other people were reading. In Mexico and Spain it was whatever I could get my hands on as English language book shops were few and far between and rather expensive. Then there was a lot of book swapping between my and my then partner and now I have a friend who is a librarian and a HUGE pile of books to read. she bought me this book for my birthday about writing rules and one of them was 'don't read when you're writing', to which I replied : Oh yeah that's so true. She went almost purple with rage. YOU DO READ, I KNOW, I'M YOUR LIBRARIAN!
Oh and lastly I do tend to check out authors that YOU suggest Seamus!

Shameless said...

Hi V,
So funny to see that rule about not reading when you're writing ... I heard that once in a creative writing class. I've also seen the advice that it's crucial to read good books while you're writing, so we don't become too insular and trapped in our own way of seeing things. I'm not sure which is the best solution. I'm also glad to see you follow some of my suggestions ... have I let you down yet?

chiefbiscuit said...

I like a variety ... poetry, murder mystery, essays, biographies (of writers especially.)I'm not so keen on the novel for some inexplicable reason ...

Minx said...

I don't read when I am writing but I do like to read on holiday. Not sure what makes a good read, but it must be one that allows me to fall asleep in between chapters without feeling guilty!

Jessica Schneider said...

I always read, even while writing, but it usually is a book that will have absolutely no influence on the subject at hand. I don't think War and Peace would make a good beach read, but I don't enjoy 'fluff' books per se, unless they're some bio about an artist and his/her "problems". After I graduated from college I sat on the beach (it was graduation trip) and I read Sybil- the book about the girl with the 16 personalities. That was fluff but f'ed up fluff which made it a 'page-turner' but could also be too 'disturbing' for some while on holiday.

c.s. said...

welcome back, Seamus!

Hmmm, sounds like you had some fantastic reads. i'm starting Coven of One before going on to The Ministry of Special Cases.

Shameless said...

Not keen on the novel? Wow. I would go mad with them. The ultimate escape. I also like good biographies that fill us in on what really went on! :) I can't wait for Helen Clark's and Blair's. Lange's was quite good but not long and juicy enough.

Ah, the whole writing and reading dilemma. I'm never sure about that one. I also like short chapters to stop me getting cramps. :)

Yeah, I do try to read things that are not close to what I am working on ... except I broke that rule with my priest novel over the summer. It was quite different though, because mine in essence is a love story. Page-turners are good for holidays! :)

Hi! :) I hope you like Coven of One as much as I enjoyed it. There was something very cosy about it.