10 hot holiday reads
Whether you’re jetting off or staying put this summer, we’ve picked our favourite books – from modern classics to thrilling new releases – for those precious moments when you get to sit, relax and unwind. By Christina T Curran
Gone Girl Gillian Flynn
If you haven’t yet stayed up all night devouring this impossible-to-putdown page-turner, what are you waiting for? It was both the mustread book and the ultimate literary fashion accessory earlier this year and it still hasn’t run out of steam, with speculation on who will star in the screen version rife. Despite its title this is no femalecentric book, and both men and women have found its tightly wound plot about marriage, murder and manipulation gripping. We won’t give away any spoilers, suffice it to say this intoxicating psychological thriller stays with you for days after you’ve finished it, and may even make you question how well you really know the person lying beside you in bed at night.
The Island, Victoria Hislop
Alexis, a self-assured young woman, decides to make the most of a Greek holiday with her fiancé by discovering more about her Cretan mother’s past. This might sound like the set-up for your typical Mamma Mia!- style storyline, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. For a start, most of the family history is intricately tied to a former leper colony, a place built on heartache that tore families apart but also nurtured shining examples of love and compassion. Finding out about the true nature of her family’s past gives Alexis clarity in terms of both her relationship with her fiancé and with her secretive mother. A beach read with a difference.
The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova
Nothing worth watching on the in-flight entertainment menu? Sink your teeth into Kostova’s award-winning vampire thriller. Beginning in Amsterdam in 1972 when a teenage girl discovers a medieval book in her father’s library, the story revolves around the myth of Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler, and the disappearance of people investigating his supposed existence. A dark and cleverly crafted adventure mystery, the atmospheric description of castles and historical cities across Eastern Europe will send shivers down your spine, as the heroine gets ever closer to the answers – and an unimaginable evil.
A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, Marina Lewycka
Born in a refugee camp in Germany after the SecondWorldWar before moving to the UK, much of Marina Lewycka’s wit lies in her comic handling of culture clash, and this, her debut novel, is a fine example. If the dubious title doesn’t immediately
grab you, the opening lines will: “Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcee. He was 84 and she was 36. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade... bringing to the surface the sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.” Shortlisted for the Orange Prize For Fiction in 2005, the novel expertly vacillates between the humour of caricature and the poignancy of old age, between flippant farce and the politics of the UK’s immigration laws. Thoughtprovoking escapism.
A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
You might think
The Kite Runner would be a hard act to follow, but Afghan- American author Hosseini manages not only to equal the weight and force of his debut novel but, in many readers’ eyes, to surpass it. Keep the tissues handy though, because this moving story of two girls’ tragic lives under an oppressive regime is a tear-jerker. One must give up any hope of love after she is married off to a much older man, while the other is thrust into marriage at a young age. They form an unlikely friendship, which becomes greater and more meaningful in the face of the hardship they live under. A rich, poignant and satisfying read.
The Camel Bookmobile
This sweet tale of charity turns into a love story across the exotic plains of Kenya as a woman from the US makes her way to distant villages to bring books from around the world in a sort of travelling library. Some of the villagers love to see the camels laden with books appear on the horizon, while others think she is doing them no favours by bringing the outside world to their small communities. She meets an attractive Kenyan teacher named Matani, but when two books go missing tensions rise as old feelings and new ones collide. A soul-searching read.
Tigers in RedWeather
Told from the point of view of five people, this sizzling read begins with the story of two female cousins, Helena and Nick, who grew up sharing sunsoaked, careless days on a grand old family estate. With echoes of the headiness and yearning of an F Scott Fitzgerald novel, it evolves into a tale of disappointed love as the two women’s marriages don’t live up to their high expectations after the SecondWorld War. But when their children discover the victim of a brutal murder, all the characters’ lives begin to unravel. Elegant and magical.
The Dinner, Herman Koch
Holidays and family gatherings go hand in hand, but you might raise an eyebrow at the families in this new release, which has been described as ‘the European Gone Girl’. Set in Amsterdam, two sets of parents meet for an evening meal, but despite the high-end surroundings of a restaurant, all is not as it seems. Paul’s 15-year-old son, Michel, has committed an unspeakable crime, and his brother’s family are keepers of the dark secret. The couples meet to discover the truth and decide how to deal with it. With dark humour and tension dripping from every page, you’ll be swept up in the conversation and the uncomfortable truths each character has to face.
If you think the journey to your holiday destination is a long haul, try exploring the depths of the Congo, one of the most difficult-to-navigate places on the planet, as described through the eyes of British journalist Tim Butcher. His mission to travel the same route taken by HM Stanley, another journalist, more than 130 years ago is recounted in this record of his modern adventure as he dodges death at the hands of rebel factions, a rickety motorbike and the unforgiving, rugged landscape. An inspiring read for the more intrepid travellers among us.
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
While you might only be aware of the hit film, the lively characters of this well-written book are the perfect company along with a sun lounger and a fruity drink by the pool. Set in the early 1960s in the US, this touching story will lift your heart and restore your faith in humanity, with a few laughs thrown in for good measure. It centres on a number of black women who work in wealthy white homes in a Mississippi suburb during a time when equality was still being hammered out – sometimes literally. Despite the real fear of being hurt or even killed by angry mobs, the women begin to tell a local journalist about their lives and how they’re treated by the people they have essentially raised from birth. Miss Skeeter writes their stories and slowly begins to see her friends and her town in a strikingly different light.
Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for her portrayal of a servant in the film adaptation of The Help