Holiday readings

Here are three suggestions for fun holiday reading — none of them new books, as it happens, but ones I’ve particularly enjoyed in the last few weeks. So, warmly recommended if you haven’t yet read them and are looking for pleasing distractions:

  • Robert Harris An Officer and a Spy. I was, to be honest, pretty disappointed by Harris’s latest, Conclave, whose flat-footed plot twist I found so implausible as to even make me a bit annoyed I’d spent the time reading the book. A strange lapse of form. By contrast, this fictional recounting of the Dreyfus affair is both un-put-downable and satisfying.
  • Sarah Dunant, In the Company of the Courtesan. Mrs Logic Matters has been recommending for ages that I try Dunant’s books set in Renaissance Italy: and she’s absolutely right. This is the first in the series, and my first, and just is a terrific read.
  • Tim Parks, Italian Ways. A serendipitous find in a charity shop, this is notionally about the vagaries of various railway journeys round Italy that Tim Parks took. There’s a lot of sharp though mostly affectionate observation from a long-time resident in Italy, written with a novelist’s way with words. As you rattle through the book, you learn some history, and (if you know the country at all) will nod with pleased recognition at Italian foibles. An unexpected delight.

Any suggested holiday reads you’d like to share?

Added The day after I posted this, the Sunday Times printed its recommendations for summer holiday reading. They mention three other books I’ve particularly admired in recent months and which you certainly should read sometime, Rose Tremain’s The Gustav Sonata, Julian Barnes’s The Noise of Time and Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent. But I’m not sure that either of the first two have quite the page-turning lightness you want for holiday relaxation — and while The Essex Serpent is absolutely gripping, surely you should keep it to a more Dickensian time of year, perhaps to read round the fire as the nights draw in …

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3 Responses to Holiday readings

  1. Dani says:

    Interesting list. An Officer and a Spy sounds like an interesting read. I’ll only recommend one because it’s the only recently published book I’ve read lately. It’s David Van’s new novel Bright Air Black. It takes some time to get used to the peculiar narrative style, chaining short clause after short clause. I’m not particularly fond of Greek mythology, but his account of the tale of Medea was absolutely gripping. His love for the sea shows on every page, and no other author can match his ability to bring to life the most harrowing scenes.

  2. David Makinson says:

    Not new, but if you can lay your hand on Italo Calvino’s classic essay on putting out the garbage (I found mine recently in a second-hand stall) it will amuse, inform, and delight.

  3. Charlie says:

    The Sarah Dunant sounds like a terrific read! Going to the library this afternoon to check it out

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