12 November 2015

Holiday reading

I always like to read on holiday. In fact, you could remove "on holiday" from that sentence and it would still be true! But, on holiday, I particularly love to read books that relate to the area I'm travelling in.

When I was in Peru I read The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric (and dreamed of Santa Catalina monastery for months afterwards as a result!), on the way to Japan (both times) I read Little Sister by Kara Dalkey, and around the time I went to China I read Empress Orchid by Anchee Min.

Before my trip to Tuscany and the Italian Riviera, I had already been reading some books set in Italy, but I wanted to find some that were specifically about the area I was going to.

I had already read E M Forster's A Room with a View (the film of which was what inspired my trip), and Where Angels Fear to Tread, as well as The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant, The Savage Garden by Mark Mills, and I'd seen the film of Under the Tuscan Sun. So I searched for some other books about the area.

The first I found was The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irvine Stone. The title sounds a bit dodgy, but it is actually a fictionalised account of the life of Michelangelo! I found myself absorbed in it right from the beginning.

While reading this there was mention of Brunelleschi, so I also downloaded the book Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King. This is the fascinating story of the design and construction of the dome of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, which I knew I would be visiting. I liked the fact that these two books had a theme of creativity, with one being fiction based on fact, and the other non-fiction.

For more non-fiction I chose Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel, an author with a good reputation for writing about historical science. This was based on letters sent to Galileo by his daughter who was in a convent, and it was really fascinating.

For the second half of my trip I would be on the Italian Riviera, so I downloaded The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, about some women who rent a small mediaeval castle on the Italian Riviera. I found it really charming and witty, and very inventive in the way that it was told from the perspectives of all the characters. It showed how we can interpret the actions of others completely wrongly, and it's about the transformative effect that one person's happiness can have on those around them.

I read a little of each book before leaving on my holiday, and then I dipped into each of them as and when the mood took me. It turned out I didn't have a lot of time for reading on holiday, so the only one I have finished so far is The Enchanted April!

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