You may remember Hannah, our book guru who provided us with some amazing suggestions to get lost in at the beginning of the very first lockdown. Hannah is our obvious go-to for book advice. She's worked at the magical Harry Potter-style Daunt Books, an Edwardian bookshop with long oak galleries in Marylebone High Street, runs a London-based book club with friends and is currently completing a Children's Literature MA. To celebrate the fact that holidays are creeping into our existence again (finally!), we thought we would treat you to some perfect holiday book inspiration, thank you Hannah!
The Little Prince
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I read this book for the first time on holiday several years ago, and ever since have had the a tradition that my copy must be packed into my carry-on bag every time I get on a flight. Whilst we may or may not be flying anywhere for a holiday this year, it will remain one of my favourite ‘journey’ reads (another is Nora Ephron’s Heartburn - which is so hilarious and ideal for racing through during a long trip). The Little Prince is a timeless fable which follows the eponymous and mysterious character as he recounts his otherworldly adventures with a pilot (a vaguely fictionalised version of Antoine de Saint Exupéry), who has crashed his plane into a desert. Along the way he encounters many familiar characters - such as those obsessed with money, fame, and work for work’s sake. Also, an endearingly drawn long-eared fox who teaches the Little Prince about friendship. In fact, it is packed with illustrations drawn in Saint Exupéry’s distinctive style to gaze at, and plenty of memorable quotes too. The ideal book for dipping in and out of, interspersed with thoughtful gazes out of the train/car/plane/any window wherever you may be.
- Françoise Sagan
Another frequent reread of mine, Bonjour Tristesse was first published in 1954 and has stylistic shades of The Great Gatsby, except in my opinion much better because it was written by an absurdly talented 18 year old French woman.
Set in the French Riviera, the novel focuses on Cécile, 17 years old, who is spending the summer in a villa with her father and his younger lover Elsa. Cécile thrives on their lazy sun-drenched life, spending her time lounging at the beach and with Cyril, a man from the villa nearby who she starts a romance with.
Things get complicated with the arrival of Anne, an old friend of Cécile’s late mother. As Anne - a much more serious and sensible person than the rest of them - charms Cécile’s father and attempts to steer Cécile’s focus towards improving herself through study and hard work, Cécile grows resentful. The story ends in a
tragedy and with the characters thinking hard about what true love, in all its forms, really means. A languid kind of book, it is short enough that you can drink it in over an afternoon then take a nap on a deckchair in the sunshine, which is perfectly doable even if the only holiday you have planned is a relaxing weekend at home in the garden or nearby park.
The Salt Path
- Raynor Winn
I may be a little late to the party with this one, as author Raynor Winn has already gained huge popularity, won a multitude of awards and written a follow-up to this, but if you haven’t read it already then The Salt Path should definitely be packed into your luggage. It would be especially perfect if you were holidaying in
the South West of England this summer, as Winn paints the scenery of the South West Coast path of her journey with such beauty. A true story, Winn documents her and her husband Moth’s experience after they lose their beloved home and
livelihood and, with nothing but what they carry on their backs, decide to embark on walking the 630 mile path from Somerset to Dorset, passing through Devon and Cornwall on the way. What makes their adventure even more incredible is that Moth had also recently discovered he is terminally ill. I loved Raynor’s matter-of-fact, wry tone, and the way she and Moth just keep walking, through setbacks,
uncertainty and plenty of bad weather, is inspirational. It will likely make you want to shoulder a backpack and set off on the path yourself.
The Long Petal of the Sea
- Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende is one of the best writers of fiction, I think, ever. She is an expert at drawing rich, complicated characters and writing sweeping, multi-generational epics, all infused with her distinctive brand of magical realism. The Long Petal of the Sea is Allende’s latest novel. She has said in interviews about the book that it was one of the easiest she found to write, as if it had been waiting inside her to come out. It begins during the Spanish Civil War, focusing on a young doctor, Victor Dalmau, and his family as they attempt to survive. Together with Roser Brugera, his sister-in-law, he eventually finds himself in exile and they become bound as refugees for Chile. There, the two battle prejudice and hardship - and friendships and success - as they carve out new lives for themselves. Pulling together an amazing crowd of characters, through Victor and Roser Allende
explores how love - for each other and for the places around you - can grow and change as the years go by. If you fancy something that you can read for hours and forget that real life really exists outside of it, The Long Petal of the Sea is definitely for you. One of those books that, when I finished it, I didn’t want to leave
the characters behind.
Writers & Lovers
- Lily King
This novel focuses on Casey, refreshingly not a 20-something but a 30-something, who has been trying to write her novel for six years. She is paying too much rent to live in what is basically a shed, shouldering a large amount of debt and, in the meantime, working as a waiter in busy restaurant frequented by the elite of
nearby Harvard. Casey then meets two, quite different, men - but really the novel is more about her finding herself than finding love. It is about feeling like you’ve lost your direction, and how the direction you crave may not be where you need to go in the end. Casey is such a likeable, relatable character and I loved being in her head for a little while. The novel was also genuinely understanding of how hard waiters work, which I enjoyed too. Writers and Lovers deals with emotions and situations small enough and relatable enough to handle as lockdown eases and the ‘real world’ could feel a little overwhelming. A bit like Sally Rooney, but funnier. Also, if you’re going on holiday with friends then it’s a great book to pass around and all enjoy.