As ever, this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is brought to us by the good people at the the Broke and the Bookish. It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these and, frankly, if it weren’t for the fact that I have hardly blogged at all in the past couple of months, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this one. You see, I am really not a beach person. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sea and the seaside. I just don’t like the actual beach. I don’t like how the sand gets everywhere, I don’t like being surrounded by throngs of people and, being both naturally “glow in the dark” white and having a lawyer’s tan, I’m unlikely ever to be cast in Baywatch.
Until the birth of mini-Falaise, I was always more of a city break kind of person. I would make exceptions obviously and remember having great holidays in the south of
France and on Corfu with Mrs Falaise but have never really gone for the beach since childhood holidays in Cornwall and on the Isle of Wight. So, I can’t actually give you a list of favourite beach reads. What I can give you, however, is a list of books that I read on holiday and that trigger memories.
1. Poirot’s Early Cases by Agatha Christie. I loved Christie and especially Poirot as a boy (and, secretly, still do). Between the ages of about 8 and 11, our summer holidays were spent on the south coast of
England, in places like Lyme Regis, Newquay and the Isle of Wight. One year, when I had just started reading Poirot, my parents bought me a copy of Poirot’s Early Cases. I was engrossed in it and can still remember being thoroughly sulky about having to put it down to join in with the rest of the family at the beach or on excursions. Happy days.
2. Midnight in the
and Evil by John Berendt. When I go away, I like to take books that have a connection with the place I am going to. Some years ago, I had been going through a rather intense period at work and rewarded myself with a three week trip through parts of the Garden of Good , travelling by train. The longest stretch of travel was between USA Washington DC and . I had my own little compartment and had a wonderful time watching the world go by and reading. One of the books I read was this one, as the train took me through New Orleans on my way to the Big Easy. The book was amazing, the trip even more so. Georgia
3. Little Infamies by Panos Karnezis. As I mentioned above, I once spent a fabulous week in
with the (then) future Mrs Falaise. We stayed in Cannes Hollywood splendour at the Hotel Martinez on the Croisette, one of the mainstays of the film festival. We enjoyed the private beach, on which we dined while watching the firework display. I also enjoyed relaxing by the pool, reading this collection of short stories, set in an obscure Greek village and focussing on the lives and deaths of the eccentric villagers. It has elements of magical realism, not my usual thing, but was wonderfully readable anyway.
by Jan Morris. Venice is one of my favourite cities in the world. I’ve visited a number of times and never tire of it. If you are planning a trip or just want to visit it in your mind, this is the perfect companion. It’s not a guide book but is a superb portrait of this unique city. Simply brilliant. Venice
5. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I read this for the first time as a teenager on a family holiday to
Tenerife. Although it is probably a bit overrated, I still think it is a beautiful depiction of love, loneliness and the slow decay of the old aristocracy. I enjoyed it but didn’t take a teddy bear to with me. After I’d finished it, I lent it to my father who returned it to me liberally smudged with his suntan oiled fingerprints. Git. Oxford
6. Astérix by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. As a child, I was never allowed to have any of the comic books telling the stories of the plucky Gaulish warrior and his sidekick, Obélix. My parents considered them not educational enough. I was, however, allowed to buy them if they were in the original French – that was considered just educational enough! So a highlight of family trips to
was my ritual purchase of a couple of new hardcover Astérix albums and the agonies of having to make choices between them. I still have them all in my library (aka the basement and mini-Falaise’s playroom). I hope that, in due course, she will get as much enjoyment from them as I have. France
7. An Olympic Death by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. I read this Pepe Carvalho mystery on a weekend break to
in 2000, just before starting a new job. Pepe Carvalho is a jaded socialist, gourmet private investigator who solves crimes in his native Barcelona . An Olympic Death is set just before the 1992 Olympics and contrasts the old, earthier Barcelona with the glossy, glamorous Catalan city that sprang from the Games. I often think that Montalbán gets unfairly overlooked in the Euro detective novel stakes and is definitely worth checking out. Barcelona
: the City Victorious by Max Rodenbeck. A sweeping survey of life in Cairo from the very beginning, through its medieval glories to the end of the twentieth century. I read it in Cairo Cairo, at the end of an Egyptian holiday that took me by boat down the Nile to Aswan, to the Temple of Karnak and the Winter Palace Hotel (in which Christie wrote Death on the Nile) in to the son et lumière show at the Pyramids, reminiscent of The Spy who loved me. It’s a fascinating country and the book is truly evocative of the city. Luxor
9. The Face of the Third Reich by Joachim Fest. Not the norm for holiday reading, I would accept but I read this in
as a teenager on a family holiday and it still sits on my shelves today. It is a series of potted sketches of various sections of Nazi society and a number of key Nazis, focussing on their psychologies and written in a lucid and highly readable fashion. Its structure and tone is such that it avoids getting bogged down in the weight of detail that is available but manages to capture some essential truths about Hitler’s regime. France
And one which I shouldn’t have bothered with………
10. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. I’m happy to admit that I quite enjoyed Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. I thought they were fun little pot-boilers and I do like all the occulty factoids, even if I do know they are clap-trap. So, when we took a trip to stay with my parents in
a couple of years ago just after mini-Falaise’s first birthday, I took this along to while away a few relaxing hours. I wish I hadn’t. It’s rubbish. More than that, it is lazy, exploitative rubbish. When we came back, I left it behind. Several hours of my life that I will never get back. Normandy