The last time Management and I went on a proper holiday was to Crete, back in the mid nineties, when we spent two weeks trying to persuade a large dog, belonging to the German family in the next chalet, to let us near the pool.
Holidaying is a bit like playing the piano: if you don’t keep up the practice, you get rusty. It begins to seem easier and cheaper — and probably less stressful — to just lie around in the back garden listening to next door’s Adele records…
But suppose I did manage to get it together to go on a proper holiday again, with proper holiday reading… what’d I take?
Easy: Villette, by Charlotte Brontë.
Back in the days when we did go on holiday, I always took Villette, and I see no reason to change. I love Villette. I think it’s the best — certainly the weirdest — novel in English. Why read anything else?
But suppose I decided to live dangerously. Let’s see…
It’s ages since I read Middlemarch. There’s an Elizabeth Taylor, The View from the Harbour, that I failed to get into a year or so back. I feel I should revisit Henry Green and Angus Wilson…
There’s a pattern here. I don’t really see holidays as a chance to do any cutting-edge reading — there’s too much danger of dragging something on and off trains and aeroplanes and discovering, halfway down the second page, that it’s really only good for throwing at the local cats.
So yeah: tried, tested and familiar.
And a YA read? Treasure Island. It is by no means the first YA novel, but it is surely still the finest, and defines many classic motifs of the genre: orphanhood, the sense of election, the problematic nature of the adult world… and what is still English literature’s Best Map.
So it’s time I read that again.
And an Enid Blyton. I got The Rubadub Mystery for Christmas when I was about eight. Recently I picked up a copy — the same edition that I remember — on a second hand bookstall in Faversham. There’s a dog, Loony. And secret messages.
Donald Hounam grew up just outside Oxford. He toyed with medieval history at St Andrews University, and wrote a PhD thesis on apocalyptic beliefs in the early Crusades. He threw paint around at the Ruskin School of Drawing in Oxford, then found himself in Dublin where he threw more paint around and reviewed films until his flatmate set the building alight one Christmas, whereupon he scuttled back to England and started making up stories.
He is guilty of two novels featuring forensic sorcerer Frank Sampson: Gifted (2015) and Pariah (2016).