Friday, 15 August 2008

Book quandary

It is almost 1 am, and I really should be going to bed soon . . . but I am fretting about what books to take with me to France tomorrow.

After a day of manic pre-holiday preparations -- washing and drying and sorting, packing way too many clothes (but a modest number of shoes), cleaning out the refrigerator, organizing the pet-care rota, making numerous phone calls and appointments, paying bills, mailing packages, spending three hours on the Internet trying to find a hotel room for tomorrow night, editing the carry-on luggage -- I still have not sorted out the crucial detail of my holiday reading.

For some reason, (could it be my curdled brain?) nothing is sounding quite right to me. I'm wanting something French in flavor, but a scan of the unread books on my shelf yields nothing but Suite Francaise -- and I'm not sure that I'm up for WWII stories at the moment. I should bring along Midnight's Children, but it doesn't seem like a good book for the pool. I'm looking for that balanced blend of substance and frivolity, and it just isn't jumping off the shelf at me. I suppose that I could rely on a random pick of Heathrow's offerings, but that's a risky strategy, too.

The right book at the right time always elevates a holiday for me -- and just like scent, or taste, or music, it can help reinforce the flimsy structure of my memory. When I read Eat, Pray, Love on the beach at Antigua (winter 2006), or The Big House by the sand dunes in Cape Cod (summer 2005), I experienced the perfect melding of inner and outer landscapes. Earlier this summer, in New England, I seemed to be stuck in the memoir genre . . . and this, too, was perfect for my nostalgic mood and a certain wallowing in Americana.

Should I just rely on the abandoned books of the previous residents of the house? Maybe those castoffs will be inspired . . . after all, the villa I am going to is named Storyvilla.


Anne said...

Lucky you, going to France! I will look forward to whatever you care to share with us of what you eat--and any pictures you might take while you're there!

I enjoyed Almost French, and would be only too happy to lend you my copy, except that there's not enough time to get it to you before your departure. I've heard good things about Paris to the Moon, but I've not read it yet.

Bon voyage, et bonnes vacances!

Alyson said...

How wonderful, to be jetting off to France! Have a great time!

I feel the same about books and vacations. There needs to be a certain correlation.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Bon vacances! I look forward to hearing about your adventures in Storyvilla. Perhaps you'll find your own book to write.

herhimnbryn said...

Let your inner child out and take Thne Railway Children by E Nesbit.......go on!

Bee said...

Funnily enough, I read "Paris to the Moon" when we were in Italy last year. I really enjoyed it, and it was an excellent holiday book. Hopefully, I will be able to "borrow" some pictures from my friend Andrew. He will be at Storyvilla with us, and he can always be counted on to bring his camera (unlike my family).

Oooh, I like that word "correlation." I was trying to think of that word last night, but it just wasn't coming to me.

I am looking forward to catching up with you -- not only your European posts, but also in real-time -- when we get back.

I was researching Yorkshire the other day, and I noticed the town/train station where they filmed the movie! That sounds like a good cosy choice for reading with my daughter this autumn.

Debski Beat said...


The Enchantress of Florence, you have to do it sometime ! Strangely I read War and Peace last break I had (! weird thing to do) Re read Far From The Madding Crowd an oldy and a goody. take tons of magazines too.

Most important .... take your own tea bags !

Bon Voyage !

Elizabeth said...

I think taking your chances with what's there might yield unexpected treasures.
I discovered W.G.Sebald in our laundry room swap shelf.
Also you might get the Persephone catalogue for wonderful rediscovered mid 20th century reads.
I'm on an tear right now.
Enjoy France -how could one not?

Brave Sir Robin said...

Well, I know you've left by now, but a rereading of A Movable Feast, or The Sun Also Rises is always appropriate in the Summer time.

Anne said...

This is off-topic, but I must defend French tea from debski beat. It might well be that the majority of French tea bags are atrociously bad, but the best tea I've ever had the pleasure of drinking was in Paris (at 30 rue Bourg-Tibourg in the Marais, to be exact). If there's a heaven, it probably smells like the Mariage Freres tea room.

Sarah Laurence said...

Bonjour Bee! Did you find the perfect book? I always pack my books before my clothes. For France that might not be a bad idea unless you read French or don't like clothes shopping.

I'm with Alyson and you on book-vacation coordination. I'm reading The Beach House set on Nantucket while on Nantucket Island. It's definitely a beach book if you are looking for that.

Ellis Avery is writing a new novel set in 1920's Paris, but it will be a few years before it's in a bookstore. You might enjoy her first historical novel The Teahouse Fire - see my sidebar book reviews. It's available in the UK and USA, possibly in France too. The protagonist is a French American orphan adopted into a teahouse family in 19th century Japan.

Enjoy your vacation!

Lucy said...

An old friend of mine told me he had been reading 'Miss Smilla's feeling for snow' on holiday on a Greek island and how he'd thought of me because he knew how horrified I'd be at the inappropriateness of the choice!

I often don't quite find the right book though. So what did you read? And where did you go in France? I look forward to hearing more about it.

Cindy said...

I hope you are having a good vacation and have found the perfect book choice for it. I look forward to hearing all about it.

Beth said...

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train." (Oscar Wilde)
Have a wonderful vacation!

The Nag said...

I not only have to choose books for myself but for my hubby as well when we go to France in a few weeks. I know it's too late now but Suite Francaise would not have been a mistake. I put off reading it for a long time and was pleasantly surprised. It's not heavy at all and is surprisingly modern in tone.
One of my favourite memories is of reading The Time Traveler's Wife on the veranda of the Hotel Tadoussac, overlooking the Saguenay River.

Bee said...

Debski Beat,
If I ever manage to tackle Midnight's Children, (and assuming that I like it), I will take up the Enchantress. Would it be improved by reading it in Florence?
As for your other choices, they are worthy -- but perhaps not best suited for poolside reading in which one has to tune out the shrieking of six children!

You're right: They are some unexpected treasures here. I just finished "Into the Wild," and I'm contemplating either "Portrait of a Marriage" or a Callas biography. Your mention of the Persephone catalogue intrigues me. I wonder if "Revolutionary Road" by Richard Yates is in it? (That was my first read.)

I loved both of those books. A reread of Hemingway is definitely in order.

Anne and DB,
As with books, we've done a combination of both tactics with the tea bags -- brought some of our own, and purchased some. I bought a caramel tea which I haven't tasted yet, but which sounds delicious. I also bought a herbal one which promises to "facilitate digestion" -- a jolly good idea! My friend A-M thinks that our purchased Earl Gray is too "perfumy" and inferior to the English import. Actually, we've been drinking more coffee than tea . . . as it goes better with croissants!

I always like books set in beach houses! Be sure to let me know if you enjoy your Nantucket-based one.

On the other hand, sometimes it is fun to read about snow when you are roasting on your lounger! I hope to be reporting on books read and other French holiday details tot ou tard.

Oui to the first, and I've read some good books, too!

Sadly, my diary isn't as interesting as Gwendolyn's! The Wildean quotation made me laugh, though.

The Nag,
Thanks for giving Suite Francaise a good review! (Too bad I didn't bring it along . . . sigh.) As for the Time Traveler's Wife: LOVED it. Your setting sounds lovely, but any would do. Such a gripping, absorbing book, I thought.