I’m writing this from my little writing room in London, but in my heart I’m back in the cabin in the woods where I spent the past week. I was on my honeymoon with my new husband; we hired a little hideaway in the heart of Dorset with its own private lake and surrounding woodland. It was the perfect trip: a week of walks, wild swims and curling up next to the woodburner reading. One of my favourite things about going on holiday has always been having the time and excuse to read as much as I like. It’s such a treat to read for hours on end, not worrying about the time passing. Here’s my honeymoon reading list…
Before the Coffee Gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi is one of those books that I’ve so nearly bought many times, my attention always drawn to it in bookshops, my hand pausing on the cover before for whatever reason moving on to something else. On a recent trip to one of my favourite indie bookshops I saw it again, the cover winking at me, and decided to go for it this time. I’m so glad I did. It’s such a cosy and dreamlike story, set in a café in Tokyo with a twist: if a customer sits in one of the seats in the café, it is possible to travel in time. The time travel is constrained by certain rules though, one of them being that the traveller can only stay in the past (or future) for as long as it takes for their coffee to get cold. For a book about time travel, it is a surprisingly gentle and quiet sort book, but that’s what I loved so much about it. It’s moving too, making you think about the moments in life you wish you could go back and relive or change in some way. Reading it on my honeymoon had a particular resonance, reminding me to cherish every moment, moments that one day in the future I might choose to go back and experience again if I happened to find myself in a time-traveller’s café…
I raced through this book in a day, so headed back to the same shop the next day to buy the sequel, Tales from the Café, which was published this year. It’s just as enjoyable as the first, picking up on the stories of some of the characters you grow to love in the original book as well as introducing new stories.
I get a lot of my book recommendations from a WhatsApp group I’m part of where myself and a group of female book-lovers share what we’re reading. The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré is one that’s been incredibly popular in our group this year. Set in Nigeria, it tells the story of Adunni and her long fight to get an education after being removed from school and sold into marriage as a young teenager. She’s a narrator whose unique voice really stays with you. It’s a book about the power of finding your voice, something which particularly as writer and a woman, struck a real chord with me.
Like The Girl with the Louding Voice, my next read, The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See was one that really moved me and will stay with me for a long time. It tells the story of two friends who grow up as part of a collective of all-female divers on the island of Jeju off South Korea. The book follows their friendship and how it is tested by the harrowing events that take place on the island over the years. I particularly loved this book for how well it depicts the weight and significance of female friendships – something I think I’ll always want to cover in my own writing because it’s something I so believe in. This particular paragraph in the book had me underlining like mad and saying ‘yes!’ out loud:
‘No one picks a friend for us; we come together by choice. We are not tied together through ceremony or the responsibility to create a son; we tie ourselves together through moments. The spark when we first meet. Laughter and tears shared. Secrets packed away to be treasured, hoarded, and protected. The wonder that someone can be so different from you and yet still understand your heart in a way no one else ever will.’
The book does a brilliant job of capturing what is so special about friendship as well as exploring the pain of a friendship tested to breaking point. There are some really dark parts in this story, but it is brightened too by moments of love and the warmth of a community of women.
Next up on my reading pile was The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper. I was lucky enough to meet Emma at an event we did together last year and have been meaning to buy her books ever since after hearing her read aloud and talk about her work. She is also truly lovely, so it was no surprise that her debut was too. It’s a quirky, poignant book about love and family which I found myself racing through. I’ll be adding her next books, The First Time I Saw You and If I Could Say Goodbye to my to-read pile too.
I’m now half-way through Daddy’s Gone A Hunting, a Persephone book by Penelope Mortimer about a 1950s housewife struggling with the loneliness of her life and a troubled marriage. If you’ve read The Lido you’ll know that loneliness is a subject close to my heart, so I’m enjoying reading this interpretation of the theme.
Somehow without meaning to I ended up reading a lot of quite sad books on my honeymoon, so I think I might seek out some cheerier reads next. I like balancing my reading as much as possible moving between different locations, time periods and up and down varied emotional landscapes. I love that no matter what mood you’re in, there’s a book out there to suit you. Right now, with an autumn chill knocking at my window, I’m craving some comforting books to snuggle up with. Are there any you’d recommend? Add your suggestions in the comments below!