For the print addict, the sort of person who reads cereal packets, the back of other people’s newspapers and old till receipts when deprived of a book, a holiday without something to read can be a very grim prospect.
Choosing exactly the right book to read on holiday can be a challenge too; exactly the right book is the one that you can finish and then start on again if need be – if the holiday’s passed slower than your reading pace, or if you’ve been confined to quarters with sunburn or a tummy bug or if the weather’s been unexpectedly dreadful, for instance.
Reading Harry Potter in the Rain
One family holiday we took is inextricably linked in my mind with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The weather was very unkind for a number of days, so we huddled in our little Breton flat, listening to the wind howl and the rain lash against the windows, whiling away the long grey days with croissants, hot chocolate and reading aloud.
Holidays and the Charm of Historical Fiction
Historical fiction can make the perfect holiday read. There’s a pleasing sub-text of self improvement, plenty of escapism and, if you choose the right book, there could even be a new perspective on your holiday destination to be found.
Simon Scarrow and the Legions of Rome
For example, Simon Scarrow’s Eagle series, which follows the adventures of a Roman legion during the first century AD is ideal holiday reading (if you’re of an historical turn of mind). There aren’t many places that you can visit within Europe or even Egypt and further into the Middle East that didn’t feel the hand of Rome at one time.
The Eagle books deal with battles against the German tribes, the Celts and the Parthians, not to mention a few pirates and other enemies. Read these whilst you’re on holiday and you’ll view any passing Roman remains with completely fresh eyes and a passing shudder of horror when recalling battles of long ago.
These books are full of realistic descriptions of the life of a Roman legion, including numerous bloodthirsty battle scenes. The author is skilled enough to draw some interesting historical parallels between modern day political intrigue and that of long ago, which makes you realize that although circumstances and environment may change, human nature remains pretty constant!
Georgette Heyer and Regency England
If violent hand-to-hand combat isn’t your scene, why not pick up a couple of Georgette Heyer’s timeless Regency romances to while away a quiet hour or two of vacation down time.
These gentle comedies of manners, set in the early nineteenth century, are beautifully written, witty and historically accurate. They succeed in re-creating an historical era whilst also telling tightly plotted stories with strong elements of humor, social history and romance.
Frederica and A Civil Contract are particularly good on the social history angle, whilst Cotillion, Friday’s Child and The Unknown Ajax are full of memorable characters and are laugh-out-loud funny at times. Georgette Heyer has a dead-pan delivery which makes historical romance vibrant, colorful and ideal for holiday reading.
Diana Gabaldon: Time Travel Wild Card
Diana Gabaldon’s time travel novels (known as the Outlander series in the USA, but beginning with Cross Stitch in the UK) are a genre all on their own. They’re a blend of swashbuckling adventure, passionate romance and history of medicine, wildly fanciful but also a compelling tour of many of the high spots of eighteenth century history, including Culloden and the American War of Independence.
Holidays are all about escapism after all, so if your holiday this year is only a staycation, you can still have some great adventures if only by means of historical fiction!