10 holiday reads you wont want to put down
Pencilling in reading for pleasure time is tough isn’t it? Even on holiday. Thank crunchie for the beach then. No wifi = no worky which means I get to indulge in the simpler things – like a juicy novel. But I can spend an indecisive age choosing something worthy – too trashy, too highbrow, too chick-flicky, too heavy etc. I asked the lovely Liz Hurley, owner of Muddy Cornwall best independent bookshop winning Hurley Books in Mevagissey, if she’d give me her unputdownables-of-all-time. I was thrilled when she came back with 10 brilliant suggestions, old and new to suit all tastes.
It’s always good to have an expert hand to steer you in the right direction when there are just so many good reads out there (and a lot of decidedly ropey ones too). Over to Liz:
I am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes
Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn’t exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation.
But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder – and Pilgrim wrote the book.
What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.
Perfect for making a long haul flight fly by. This is a 21st century thriller that will grip you right on page one.
The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver
Born in America and raised in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd is a liability to his social-climbing flapper mother, Salome. When he starts work in the household of Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo – where the Bolshevik leader, Lev Trotsky, is also being harboured as a political exile – he inadvertently casts his lot with art, communism and revolution. A compulsive diarist, he records and relates his colourful experiences of life with Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Trotsky in the midst of the Mexican revolution. A violent upheaval sends him back to America; but political winds continue to throw him between north and south, in a plot that turns many times on the unspeakable breach – the lacuna – between truth and public presumption.
You’ll like this if you’ve plenty of uninterupted time. Evoking the sizzling Mexican heat and getting embroiled in the political and artistic movements of the 1950s. Beautifully written, this is a large book and perfect if you have some time to yourself.
A Cornish Stranger – Liz Fenwick
When her reclusive grandmother becomes too frail to live alone, Gabriella Blythe moves into the remote waterside cabin on Frenchman’s Creek which has been her grandmother’s home for decades. Once a celebrated artist, Jaunty’s days are coming to a close but she is still haunted by events in her past, particularly the sinking of Lancasteria during the war.
Everything is fine until a handsome stranger arrives in a storm, seeking help. Fin has been left a family legacy: a delicate watercolour of a cabin above the creek which leads him to this beautiful stretch of Cornish water. As Fin begins to pick at the clues of the painting, he is drawn into the lives of Gabe and Jaunty, unraveling a remarkable story of identity and betrayal . . .
Liz Fenwick is a rapidly ascending star in the field of family and romantic fiction. All her wonderful books are set in Cornwall and weave tales of heartbreak and joy.
You’ll love this if you crave heartbreaks and happy endings. Fans of Rosamunde Pilcher may have found a new author to treasure.
The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen
Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret after her mother – a monarch as vain as she was foolish – was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea’s uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother’s guard – each pledged to defend the queen to the death – arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding…
And so begins her journey back to her kingdom’s heart, to claim the throne, win the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother’s legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea’s story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance – it’s about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive…
You’ll love this if you think Snow White had it easy and want a heroine that bites back and doesn’t care if she isn’t skinny.
The Muse – Jessie Burton
On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn’t know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.
The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences . . .
Seductive, exhilarating and suspenseful, The Muse is an unforgettable novel about aspiration and identity, love and obsession, authenticity and deception
You will love this if you like to get truly lost in a tale. Burton’s writing is captivating.
The Rosie Project – Don Tillman
This is brilliant, its light, its fun and it is hugely appealing. Don Tillman is a man of routines, he knows that his mind is wired a little differently but he is aware that he could do with finding an optimal partner to have a relationship with. He designs the perfect questionnaire and then starts to interview candidates. He thinks he has everything under control until he meets Rosie. This book is absurdly charming, you are laughing all the way through but never ever at Don.
Perfect for: Unwinding! It’s light and fluid writing style means that it never demands too much of you and you can pick it up and put it down without worrying about losing the plot. You probably won’t put it down though as it is just so compelling.
Dissolution – CJ Sansom
A historical detective thriller set during the reign of Henry VIII. Mathew Shadrake is a lawyer in favour of the violent reforms that are gripping the country but with political allegiances constantly changing and being destroyed no one is safe. Shadrake is sent, by Cromwell, to investigate a murder in a remote monastery and finds himself in the heart of a conspiracy that challenges all his preconceived ideas.
Perfect for: getting away from it all, fans of mystery novels and historical crime. Appeals to readers of Hilary Mantel and Jean Plaidy alike.
The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
This is a brilliant and very clever take on Jane Eyre. Imagine Swindon with Dodos, a world where literature is more important than sport, a place where Literary Detective Thursday Next has to work out who is manufacturing fake Shakespeares and who is trying to kill Jane Eyre, whilst wondering if she will ever get back together with the love of her life, Landen Park-Laine. The book is full of puns and inside jokes, the pace is cracking and the wit sizzles.
Perfect for lovers of Terry Pratchett, Ben Aaronovitch and Jane Eyre – of course.
The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
This is so evocative of the searing heat of the Greek plains and the relief of the shaded olive groves. The writing is clever and touching and is little surprise that it won the Orange Prize in 2012.
Ideal for anyone who loves the greek myths and legend, especially if you are lucky enough to be on holiday in Hellas. Absolutely perfect if you are in Cornwall and its raining as you can escape to a land of heat and legend.
Losing it in Cornwall – Liz Hurley
Liz Hurley gathers together some of the best of her newspaper for a sneaky peak at what life in Cornwall is really like. Throughout the year read how she balances being a bookseller, a mother and a dog walker in Britain’s finest county! Learn how not to surf, cook fudge or read books. Batten down the hatches as she rants about exploding cars, rude visitors and stupid adverts. There’s also the odd word of wisdom but they do tend to be very odd and covered in mud, blood and hair.
There’s something here for all ages. Some will identify with trying to find something to wear on a Truro shopping trip, whilst others will relate to a rugby versus football argument. Parents will recognise their teenagers in her son’s response to her buying green sunglasses and others may just be amazed by how some people behave in a bookshop!
Perfect for dipping in and out of and realising that when it comes to chaos and confusion that you are probably not alone and that maybe life in Cornwall isn’t always a bed of roses.