Heading south through France by car ranks as one of our favourite holiday pastimes. This summer we drove down to the Haute Pyrenées and enjoyed some fantastic walking in the Cirque de Gavarnie area close to the Spanish border. Travelling to the South West (via the busy A10 to Bordeaux) can be a bit of a hard slog at times but I love the way that France changes as we go south. It gets warmer, the skies become brighter and bluer and the glorious fields of sunflowers are really uplifting. En route, we stopped over in the delightful old town Angoulême (some distance from the motorway) in the Charente.
As always holidays are a great opportunity to catch up with plenty of reading. I tend to prefer easy-going fiction while away. So alongside the spectacular mountains and wonderful high valleys with streams running through them, which are typical of the Pyrenees, I read Kate Morton’s latest, The Secret Keeper. I did not enjoy this as much of her previous books but it was still a good holiday read. Sally Vickers,The Cleaner of Chartres was lovely with really great characters and a French setting (which I always enjoy). I also read Tracy Chevalier’s The Last Runaway, which is about 19th century Quakers in the U.S. I felt I learnt quite a bit about 19th century Quakers and I like Chevalier’s writing anyway and found this gripping and then I finished up with The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez. This was quite a light-hearted read but with a serious backdrop.
On the drive home, we stayed in Amboise on the Loire, another picturesque town – this one was very busy with tourists.
All in all, a wonderful , relaxing break.
I have recently re-discovered the delights of reading fiction following a change in my working pattern…..
I have always loved reading but unsurprisingly, like many of my friends and colleagues, I find little time for getting lost in a book outside the summer holidays. For the last decade or more, I’ve always had a novel on the go and have managed to read a few pages a couple of times a week. Finishing a medium-sized novel has generally taken me about six weeks. I do plenty of reading of educational non-fiction for work and although I find it interesting, it’s not the same as being absorbed by a novel. My main time for reading fiction has tended to be during the summer holidays when on a week’s break, I could easily get through three novels.
However, this has all changed for the better recently. Since January, I have been working in London for two days a week and this involves a 40-minute train journey. Initially, the concept of competitive commuting came as a bit of a shock after years of travelling by car in the opposite direction to everyone else. But I’ve found a wonderful upside, which is that I suddenly have time and space to read again and so, I’ve been using it to read contemporary fiction. As the length of time on the train is enough for me to really get into my reading, it’s making me want to read more and so I am also trying to fit extra reading time into my day (at lunch-times and in the evenings). As a result, I’m reading a book every week and am speedily getting through the Waterstones ‘buy one get one half price’ offers and at the same time, am discovering new authors.
Books I’ve enjoyed recently include Flight Behaviour (Barbara Kingsolver). This is the first one of Kingsolver’s novels I’ve read and I’ll certainly be back for more. She captures so well the impact of climate change on ordinary people’s lives. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Rachel Joyce) was a delight and I also liked Waiting for Sunrise (William Boyd), The Fever Tree (Jennifer McVeigh) and Skios (Michael Frayn). I am currently reading A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar (Suzanne Joinson).
My reading time on the train feels like a luxury (although I’m not suggesting that life is always that great on SW trains) and it’s made a nice difference to my working week.