It’s nearly the holidays – wooooohoooo! Tomorrow morning, before the sun is even up (although to be fair, at this time of year that could be quite late), me and my husband and our dog will be in a laden down car heading down the motorway to the south coast. We’re spending Christmas in a cottage in Dorset for a week. A whole week with nothing to do but walk on the beach, cook fine foods, watch films and (of course!) read, read, read. Brilliant.
The trouble with choosing a reading list is what to leave at home. After all, there are only so many hours in a day, sadly.
Anyway, here’s my whittled down holiday list. And you might be surprised to know they’re not all romances. In fact, I’m in the mood for a bit of criminal action, so watch out, Dorset :) Here’s the first one on my list:
The Winter Queen, by Boris Akunin This is the first in a series of detective novels set in Tsarist Russia in the 1870s, featuring Erast Fandorin, a naive young police investigator. According to Crime Time the story features ‘enigmatic and beautiful women, devious conspirators and a most unlikely Svengali intent on world domination.’ This is the first Akunin novel I’ve read, and I’m most excited about it. It’s had brilliant reviews and sold a staggering 18 million copies in Russia alone.
The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliffe This isn’t a crime novel, but is based on a real life mystery. The Ninth was a Roman Legion stationed in York, in my native Yorkshire, in AD 17. They marched north to deal with an uprising in Caledonia (Scotland) and disappeared into the mists, never to be heard of again. Rosemary Sutcliffe has fashioned a classic children’s story out of this mystery. I haven’t read the book for years, and am looking forward to revisiting it, and immersing myself in all things Roman.
The Song Dog, by James McClure From Roman Britain to South Africa. This is another new-to-me author, and the first of a series of novels set in the apartheid era, featuring a white detective, Lieutenant Tromp Kramer and a black Bantu, Detective Sergeant Mickey Zondi. It was this review in The Guardian that really sparked my interest: ‘The interactions between people of different races and the tensions between the English- and Afrikaans-speaking whites are realistically portrayed. But what I like best is the relationship between Kramer and Zondi – they develop a fondness and respect for each other that has to exist within the confines of apartheid and often has to be concealed from others. Add to this good plots and wry humour, and all the books in the series are delightful reads.’ The two men meet first in this book, and I’m interested to see how the author develops their bond over the series – as well as the crimes they have to solve, of course!
Private Enterprise and Peace Breaks Out, both by Angela Thirkell Earlier this year I wrote about how I discovered Angela Thirkell, and how I was so blown away by Wild Strawberries I immediately joined The Angela Thirkell Appreciation Society (yes, there is one!) The other members of the society were highly envious of the fact that I still have all the rest of Thirkell’s novels to explore. Fabulous for me :) One of the society members very kindly sent me these two novels, as she has umpteen copies. (Yes, buying Thirkell’s novels seems to be an addiction. Unbelievably, Thirkell was out of print for many years, and so fans always leap on her books when they discover them in second hand shops.) I’ve been saving these copies for Christmas, when I can read away and enjoy in peace.
And if I still have some reading time left (hope so!), I intend to re-read Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Our cottage is not far from the seaside town of Lyme Regis – a town beloved by Austen and the setting for several key moments in her novel. It’s also the setting for The French Lieutenant’s Woman. I’ve never visited Lyme Regis, and I’m most excited about walking on the Cobb and looking out to sea – just like Meryl Streep, only instead of a long black cloak I’ll be wearing a duffel coat.
What’s on your Christmas wish list regarding reading? And what films will you watch over the holidays? And have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned? If you have any comments at all, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you!