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Best books on staycations

I planned my 2020 European summer holiday meticulously in the bleakness of mid-January. As soon as Eurostar released its direct London-Marseilles August tickets, I pounced on them.

Our plan was to speed to the South of France then continue down to Italy at a more leisurely pace. Having spent the summer of 2019 staycationing, I was determined to holiday in guaranteed sunshine this year. Often a last-minute merchant, I was feeling pretty smug to have all my bookings in place six months in advance.

Well, we all know what happened next. I held out for my European grand tour longer than my husband, but the writing was already on the wall by the time Eurostar pulled that route for summer 2020.

Now, instead of Southern Tuscany we are heading to Scotland. Instead of Arezzo, we’ll always have Aberdeen. After a long overdue catch-up with my parents, we’ll stay in a Highlands hotel. My holiday wardrobe will be less sundresses and sandals, more cardigans and waterproofs. But we are lucky to be going away at all.

There are brilliant novels set in British holiday destinations. Amanda Craig’s latest, The Golden Rule, is shaping up to be one of this summer’s most-talked-about books.

It explores the haves and have-nots economics of Cornwall. Hannah, a returning native, meets Jinni, a holiday-home owner on the Paddington to Penzance train, and they make a pact to kill each other’s husbands. Easier said than done.

Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent begins in Victorian London, then moves to Essex. Intellectually restless widow Cora Seaborne, who has an interest in fossils, takes a house there after rumours of a mythical sea-beast in the Blackwater estuary.

Virginia Woolf’s modernist classic To The Lighthouse explores the Isle of Skye during two summer visits to the Ramsays’ holiday home there; one in 1910, then one in 1920, after World War I and the death of Mrs Ramsay and two of her children.

If you’re holidaying at home, or elsewhere in Britain, make sure to pack rainy day reading material.

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