Away with words

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

SNOOP­ING around the on-show res­i­dences of the rich and fa­mous is al­ways a mar­vel­lous ex­er­cise in voyeurism, whether palaces, cas­tles or the make-be­lieve home of party-giver ex­traor­di­naire Jay Gatsby.

But surely none could be more in­ter­est­ing than those where great writ­ers lived. Green­way, Agatha Christie’s hol­i­day home in Devon, has been open to the pub­lic since 2009 and if you’ve read her Dead Man’s Folly you’ll recog­nise it as the novel’s Nasse House —‘‘a big white Ge­or­gian house look­ing out over the river . . . a gra­cious house, beau­ti­fully pro­por­tioned’’. Walk down its wild and lovely grounds to a boathouse by the River Dart; this is where Christie’s char­ac­ter, the girl guide Mar­lene Tucker, was cru­elly stran­gled as she waited to play her part in a Nasse House gar­den party hunt.

In Florida, Ernest Hem­ing­way’s grand two-storey home at Key West is packed with mem­o­ra­bilia, but good­ness knows what he would have made of his me­mo­rial mouse mat in the gift shop — it’s said he wrote his nov­els long hand, stand­ing up. Chilean poet Pablo Neruda kept cre­atively un­tidy houses at Val­paraiso, Isla Ne­gra and, in San­ti­ago, La Chascona, named for the un­ruly curls of his muse, Matilde.

I have vis­ited Karen Blixen’s farm­house on the out­skirts of Nairobi, in the sub­urb that bears her name at the foot of the Ngong Hills, and seen her writ­ing desk, boots and jodh­purs (‘‘from the wardrobe of Miss Meryl Streep’’, whis­pered my guide, who looked down­cast when he sensed my dis­ap­point­ment).

In Weligama, Sri Lanka, I once stayed in a breezy white villa on the tiny is­land of Taprobane where Paul Bowles wrote The Spi­der’s House in the 1950s and re­put­edly lounged about in ‘‘co­quet­tishly ironed pleats and im­i­ta­tion leop­ard­print slip­pers’’. But the most mean­ing­ful pil­grim­age has been to Dy­lan Thomas’s house at Laugh­arne in Wales, his ‘‘sea-shaken house on a break­neck of rocks’’. My fa­ther read Thomas’s po­etry to me ev­ery bed­time when I was young and I can still re­cite wadges of Un­der Milk Wood in a pass­able Welsh ac­cent. Laugh­arne felt like a home­com­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.