Our Managing Director Sarah Odedina recently went on holiday to Brazil. And what does a Managing Director do on holiday? She reads of course! Below, she recounts the delicious experience of selecting her holiday reads and enjoying each one.
I went on holiday for Christmas and New Year and in my suitcase I took a lot of books! All sorts of books; humorous, thrillers, classics, literary, commercial, prize winners. I had a feast of buying for about a month before I went away so that I had a lot to choose from. And I chose widely. I didn’t read everything I took with me, but I read across the board and submerged myself in other worlds and other voices and met some amazing and surprising characters.
Holiday reading is a wonderfully restful experience There is nothing to interrupt the flow of the pages, no work to be done, phones to be answered, food to be made. The hours can float by effortlessly while the reader (or me at least) shares in the lives and loves and adventures of strangers who become familiar companions by the end of the book. It is a transportation that at home, during the working week, is done in small moments, half an hour here or there. But on holiday I can indulge my love of a story without limit.
Looking at the pile books I chose carefully and started with the audacious and hilarious HOPE: A TRAGEDY by Shalom Auslander which was utterly surprising in every way and managed to both shock me with its wicked wit as well as make me laugh out loud often enough that there was a scrabble in my family to read it after me. Everyone was intrigued.
Then a return to one of my favourite crime writers with Carl Hiaasen’s NATIVE TONGUE. Hiaasen has a wonderful ability to create the most adorable and fabulously flawed characters and no one does the ‘dumb crook’ quite like him. I also really like his women. They are clever and funny and delightfully grown up.
Then it was time for some thing very different. A LADY CYCLIST’S GUIDE TO KASHGAR by Suzanne Joinson which skilfully combines two historical periods in two different locations and is a beautifully layered book with a delightfully subtle insistence as it grows and takes shape in the reading.
After all these three novels I was in need of something familiar and much loved and so I returned to a favourite from childhood. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder a wonderful adventure full of dangers and excitement as a family journey across america in a covered wagon. Just as when I was ten I relished the thrills and scares and ultimate satisfactions of the intrepid family. It was wonderful to read again and realise why I so loved the book and that some of the wonderful images I have in mind from my earlier reading of it are true to the novel and not fabricated by me over the intervening decades.
During my holiday I was also lucky enough to meet the Brazilian author Socorro Acioli who has written many books for young readers in her native Brasil and I had the opportunity to read her A BAILARINA FANTASMA set in the Theatro Jose de Alencar in the North Eastern Brasilian city of Fortaleza. It is a complex and beautiful book about a girl and a ghost and the friendship and support they give one another in solving a mystery. The book is peppered with photographs of the building, which is a real place, to help give context for the very richly realised fictional world of the book. In talking to Socorro I realised yet again why reading is so important to me. I love to be immersed in and utterly engrossed by other worlds and we soon found ourselves tipping each other off to other great stories for future reading.
The it was time to leave and with that the realisation that I had to find a book that would sustain me on a long transatlantic flight. I chose THE CUTTING SEASON by Attica Locke. There is a moment in the book when a mother finds blood on the sleeve of her daughters school blouse when I realised that this is a book that was not going to be put down until it is finished. Rarely have I so happily got on an overnight flight with eight uninterrupted hours in front of me.
While all the books are very different, they all gave me the same amount of immersive pleasure. I may have actually been on a beach, or sitting in the sun, or lying on my bed but through each I also visited other places and other peoples worlds. In HOPE: A TRAGEDY, I was in that farm in North America worrying about what on earth was going on in the attic. With Carl Hiassen I visited Miami and Kashgar was beautifully real too as three women missionaries pedaled around a city that both mystified and enchanted them and finally Louisiana and its dark stories from the past mingling with the present day felt humid and oppressive and more than a little threatening to me as I sat reading, thousands of miles away but very very much ‘there’. I want a book to become my reality for the time I am reading it. I want to be in that world, and to utterly believe in the characters and their trials and tribulations – even when it is an outrageously surreal comedy – and one of the things about the pleasure of holiday reading is that a book can do that in uninteruprted, time consuming joy. I still have a few books left from my pre-holiday shopping to read. I don’t think I will be saving them for my next blast of uninterrupted reading time. But I will no doubt start thinking about that future opportunity again soon.