Monday, 4 July 2016

Top Ten Escapist Books

I think we're all in need of a bit of an escape right now, so here's a Top Ten to help you ...

Now some folk might be happy to escape into a crime thriller, and in part I can see the appeal - events are likely to be far more disturbing than anything in real life, and the perpetrator will get caught by the end of the book - but for me I'd rather have something more constantly upbeat, preferably with sunshine.

 The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim - this is my ideal book in which to get away from everything; it's short, easy to slip into, and ends happily. The four main characters themselves are heading off for a month of escapism, leaving behind wet, drab, dull London (and their personal problems) for sunshine, wisteria and 'a tub of love' in the enchanting gardens of an old Italian castle. I just wish I could join them!

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan - more Mediterranean sunshine, this time in France, with sea, sex and dangerously fast cars, as precocious teenager, Cecile, tries to break up her father's new relationship. I first read this as a teenager - the hard way, by reading the French original at school. Even so, Cecile's world, so far from a Midlands mining village, entranced me. It's an escapist read with bite - the sort of story in which someone is bound to get hurt, however it ends.

I think you could say the same about my third choice -The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh. This time the setting is Mallorca, and Jenn a middle-aged woman, starting to feel past her prime and no longer as desirable as she once was, is falling in love - or lust - with her step-daughter's boyfriend. He's sexy, edgy, passionate, represents everything lacking in Jenn's life - and you just know everything will end badly.

Weathering by Lucy Wood. A change of tempo, atmosphere and climate - a story about the relationships between mothers and daughters, told in stream-of-consciousness style, with prose that slips into poetry, capturing the reader, making them believe they are there as rivers rush, snow banks up against the doors, and an old woman refuses to believe she's dead. 

Back to the sea, Cornwall this time, for A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman - a story woven through with magic, with tales of mermaids and long-lost love. The setting is enchanting, and enchanted; a place of healing and peace where physical and emotional hurts can heal.

Another haven, of a very different kind, lies at the heart of Caroline Smailes'  The Drowning of Arthur Braxton. A derelict public baths building seems an unlikely place to find peace and solace, but inside The Oracle strange things can happen.

A move to something lighter and sillier - the first of Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series, and tbh I think the best. Becky Bloomwood is the supposed financial expert with no notion of how to manage her own money; fortunately she has friends to help her dig her way out of the mess she's made.

It's the longest of my choices so far, but Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd transports us back to time when the greatest of worries was choosing between three suitors! This story of rich, beautiful Bathsheba Everdene and her confused love-life is my favourite of Hardy's novels. On close examination, the setting maybe isn't as tranquil as it at first appears - farming has always had its problems (crops burning, sheep falling ill) and as a soldier, Sergeant Troy is presumably training for war - but seen from a modern perspective, it feels like a rural idyll.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett OK, this one is actually meant to be a children's book but I love it. Again, there's a garden, a secret, neglected one which orphan Mary Lennox and her new friends bring back to life, and in doing so heal emotional and physical ills.

...and lastly, something completely different - Smokeheads by Doug Johnstone. Four thrity-something whisky-nerds head off to Islay for a weekend of  whisky sampling which turns into a Scottish-island Deliverance style, mayhem-filled comedy thriller. It's not for everyone, but I loved it!

1 comment:

  1. I have a few books to read, the issue now is to get down and read the darn things!!!!! :)