Don’t forget your holiday reading prescription

I went to a party on Friday night and was in great demand.  Flattering, but normal this time of year, when people get the chance to do some full-on reading – not just the snatched 10 pages before sleep kicks in of the rest of the year.

Two friends with different reading needs were both after the books that they would feel repaid the effort of a week’s holiday.  There’s nothing more dispiriting than having spent good money and alloted good time, only to be fed up by page 20.

But what suits one person won’t suit another.  My ability to remember titles and authors was a little fuzzy after a few glasses of wine, so I spent a good twenty minutes waving crossly and randomly in the air – trying to recall just the right book.

Given all that effort, I thought I’d share it with a few more readers in case anyone else was looking for the perfect reading prescription.  Feel free to ask for your own personalised version!

So for the author – working on a final draft of her second novel, and wanting to think about feelings of disconnection and being a foreigner – I’ve prescribed:

THE HARE WITH THE AMBER EYES by Edmund de Waal – a non-fiction look at the author’s family history through a collection of rare Japanese netsuke.  His website shows some of the collection and an illustrated version is coming soon.  His family were wealthy, living in Eastern Europe but Jewish, and there is that powerful sense of both being part of  your local culture and estranged from it, a beautifully written memoir and history.

THE WHITE LIE by Andrea Gillies – a debut with echoes of THE IN-BETWEENER, the novel hinges on two traumatic events in the same reclusive family – and is narrated by a (probably) dead protaganist.  Dark and layered, this examines what a family consider to be truth – and how events pass into family history.

And for her husband, who, we established, likes beautifully written literary works with a decent framework, I told him to persevere with FREEDOM by Johnathan Franzen (he’d tried a few pages and not really got anywhere), continue his bleak American phase by finally reading THE SHIPPING NEWS by Annie E Proulx – and to try PURE by Andrew Miller – a strong and powerful novel that won the Costa prize last year – set in France – and showing some delicate underpinning of relationships and politics in the 18th century – reminiscent of PERFUME by Patrick Suskind.

What do you want to read on your holiday?  Let me help you!

PS my family would like me to inform you that my handwriting also qualifies me to write prescriptions…

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August 8, 2012

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