Vacation Reading – It’s a Mood Thing

Early in September, I asked Facebook friends to recommend books to read on vacation. My husband and I had two weeks planned and I wanted something good to read. But what is ‘good’? And is your ‘good read’ the same as mine?

A day or two before leaving, I checked the recommendations, looking at Goodreads to see what others might have said about them. Several went by the wayside: a period that didn’t interest me; too fluffy sounding; just read one like that; and so on. Two stood out: March by Geraldine Brooks and News of the World by Paulette Jiles. A few clicks later and they were on my iPad.

Sidebar – I used to have a Kindle. In fact, I have had four Kindles. Lost each one of them on a plane so I’m using a mini iPad we received as a promotion from a bank we are no longer dealing with. Moral of that story: don’t put your Kindle in the airplane seat pocket.

I was eager to read March as I’d heard Geraldine Brooks speak at the Historical Novel Society conference in June and I’ve read three of her novels and loved them. A sure winner, I thought. And News of the World with its premise of a crusty old man returning a young girl who’d been taken by the Kiowa to her family sounded intriguing. I was sure I could get lost in them.

Writers read a ton – and I’m no different. Sometimes when I read, I underline passages that seem particularly meaningful to me because of the language, the description, a particular thought that might be relevant to a character I’m developing. It’s a great way of continuing to learn the craft of writing. But vacation reading is different.

Vacation reading is about relaxation, about enchantment, about fun and about powering through a story because the pacing has me turning the pages to find out what happens next.

I began March with great excitement. The writing is beautiful, the emotions powerful. But, sadly, I couldn’t connect with the main character, Mr. March. And with a Civil War setting, it wasn’t right for vacation reading but I will definitely return to it.

So, I flipped to News of the World. Perhaps I was still mulling over why March hadn’t worked for me or still feeling the effects of the brutal war it depicted (ever wondered why the word civil is used in conjunction with war?). At any rate, News of the World begins slowly and by that time I wanted something lighter and perhaps present day rather than historical (shocking, I know).

With the kind of glacial Internet speed that comes from being in a more remote part of France, I checked out Amazon for best sellers and found Kristin Hannah’s Nightingale. I’d already read that and loved it so I found another of her novels – Winter Garden – and downloaded it. After fifty pages, the story took off.

The novel “illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between the present and the past.” But it does much more than that. Winter Garden tells the horrifyingly true story of the siege of Leningrad. Very powerful. Definitely a page-turner. And from my point of view, a great vacation read.

What vacation reads did you enjoy this year?

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website


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8 Responses

  1. I’ve had “March” on my bookshelf for quite some time. Interesting to hear your thoughts on this. I’ve heard such mixed reviews. I think it may sit there a little bit longer. On vacation I tend to read lighter subject novels but can’t stand anything too fluffy.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Katie. Sounds like we have similar attitudes towards vacation reading. I’ll let you know when I finish March – I understand the second half is written from his wife’s point of view. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that far! Have you read Little Women?

  2. You might find Helen Dunmore’s novel The Siege interesting – it is also about the siege of Leningrad and is in my opinion an excellent novel.

    1. Many thanks for the recommendation, Ingibjorg. When I visited St. Petersburg, the history museum had an amazing (and shocking) display about the siege. A part of history I knew nothing about. I’ll investigate Helen Dunmore’s novel.

  3. It took me a long time to get into MARCH, too, but since I was writing my own civil war book at the time, I stuck with it and ended up liking it very much — something like Jiles’ ENEMY WOMEN.

    I heard Susannah Kearsley speak at the same conference and am now finishing her 12th and last book, looking forward to the 13th: Perfect summer reading!

  4. I read “The Girl You Left Behind” by Jojo Moyes. I really enjoyed the WWI part in France (the first scenes and chapters are particularly effective : you immediately feel immersed in the story), but I found the modern-day romance much less interesting (the Liv character was too annoying). I still think it’s a nice summer read.

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