I was very much looking forward to taking a summer break from ‘work’, so it was with some irony our first stop was Waterstones in my home town to buy a new book or two…given I spend much of my working life reading, you’d think I’d want a rest! But this was slightly different; I was choosing something for myself rather than the latest children’s fiction. Don’t get me wrong I love reading children’s books, but it was nice to be choosing something just for me. I did comment to the bookseller that I spend a lot of time guiding children on how to choose a book – but I myself couldn’t decide between the wonderful plethora of fiction before me! (Which reminds me why I do what I do – children faced with all that choice sometimes just give up..but that’s another comment for another time).
Anyway, back to summer reading. I chose two books, and safely stowed in my bag, we set off for the West Country. On the way, first stop was the beautiful town of Winchester, and I couldn’t resist a visit to the wonderful bookshop ‘P G Wells’, just down the road from a Jane Austen residence! I did smile wryly to myself as I climbed the stairs to the children’s section. ‘What are you doing? You’re supposed to be on holiday’. But the lines between reading for ‘work’ and reading for ‘pleasure’ are very blurred when you love it so much. Up the stairs and every step, nook, cranny and shelf was covered with children’s books. It was amazing! I wasn’t the only person in there – a boy of about 12, and his younger brother, about 3, were busy choosing books, along with help from their mother who was giving them some great advice (‘think about what you’ve enjoyed before, what authors you like, take them off the shelf, have a good look, read the blurb’). I had to stop myself from giving her a cheer – sounds obvious but so many people don’t know where to start in a bookshop. I managed to tear myself away reluctantly- I’d wanted to stay and see what the boys would choose but they were taking their time – sensible chaps!
After a few days in Winchester, Lyme Regis was next; lo and behold, we discovered a wonderful second hand bookshop; a veritable treasure trove of reading delights, right by the seafront.
That’s a great combination isn’t it? Beach and books. Despite the inevitable sand between the pages. Saying that, I love that crumpled feel of a book when you’ve been reading on the beach, so engrossed in the plot you don’t notice the build up of a small sand dune amidst the pages! Not until you take the book home and give it a shake, whereupon half the contents of the beach appear in front of you. And the pages have that slightly damp, salty air feeling. Friends often say, ‘why don’t you take eBooks?’ – but for me, that wouldn’t be the same. I love a nice, well-read holiday book – it’s a perfect memento of time well spent.
The West Country is reminiscent of so many places in literature – what writer wouldn’t be inspired by the stunning landscape? There’s a small Jane Austen memorial garden in Lyme Regis, in recognition of the use of the seaside town as a setting in her novel ‘Persuasion’, where she lodged in 1804.
On to Croyde, and being blessed with more amazing weather, the reading on the beach continued. By now I’d finished, ‘Song of the Skylark’ by Erica James – a war time romance, switching between present day and the Second World War. A heart-warming story about love in all its forms – family, friendship, romance – which I thoroughly enjoyed. The focus on Clarissa’s amazing life during WW2 was particularly engrossing.
The second book I bought had been on my ‘to read’ list for ages, ‘The Improbability of Love’ by Hannah Rothschild. What a great read: full of intrigue, suspense, fascinating history, creativity and romance. I know very little about the art world, and this was a real eye-opener, even if based in fiction. Character relationships were totally believable, and the idea of the painting at the centre of it all having a ‘voice’ & narrating was brilliant.
Throughout the time we were away, I noticed so many people reading and something about that makes me feel warm-hearted. Being a reader feels like something special – we’re all a part of a great big book club and we may not share & discuss everything we read, but catch the eye of a fellow summer holiday reader and a knowing smile passes between you. You’re not just escaping work to enjoy the sun; you’re escaping the real world to a time and place that’s just between you and the pages of the book you’re reading. The perfect holiday.