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Holiday reading: books that remind us of our favourite trips

Friends of Lonely Continent share all

There’s nothing quite like reclining in your aeroplane seat as you open the crisp pages of a new novel, or sinking back into the sand with a cocktail in one hand and good book in the other. Holiday reads hit differently – and the books we consume on vacation become imbued with special memories. We asked friends of Lonely Continent, many of whom write and read for a living, to share a novel that defined one of their favourite holidays. Prepare for a dose of wanderlust, or simply inspiration for your next lockdown read…  

Hannah Rose Yee, writer

THE TRIP: GREEK ISLAND-hopping

the book: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

“It’s very embarrassing to begin any sentence with the words ‘When I was in Greece’, but nevertheless, when I was in Greece, hopping between islands and eating quite a lot of saganaki and drinking thimblefuls of mastika with every meal, I read Madeleine Miller’s The Song of Achilles. It felt like the right thing to do, to read this Greek mythological retelling while full of spanakopita with the Aegean Sea still drying on my skin. This book is very beautiful, and very moving, and very haunting — and also very hot! Like fully sexy, read it and blush – and even though I bought it because of some surface level subject matter kismet, it actually turned out to be the perfect holiday read. Deeply romantic, truly thrilling and atmospheric in the extreme. Just like the perfect holiday.” 

Maeve Galea, writer

THE TRIP: an exchange in Buenos Aires, Argentina

the book: Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit

“Sometimes a book finds its way into your hands at just the right moment, and it feels like it was written specifically to help you navigate that exact juncture. For me that happened when an advance copy of Rebecca Solnit’s Recollections of My Non-Existence landed on my desk during one of my last weeks in Sydney, just before I was set to move to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for one year. I took it with me and remember reading it on a humid night when I first arrived and was experiencing jet lag-induced insomnia. The memoir, told in Solnit’s signature lucid prose, recounts how in her late teens she left her suburban home for the promise of a vibrant life in San Francisco, the city that became her great teacher. Solnit writes, ‘Out on your own, you’re a new immigrant to the nation of adults, and the customs are strange: you’re learning to hold together all the pieces of a life, figure out what that life is going to be and who is going to be a part of it, and what you will do with your self determination.’ At the time I was 21, in this strange new place and I had no place to live, knew no-one and had no clue how things would pan out. Her words couldn’t have felt more relevant, or provided me with more comfort. I still keep the book on my bedside table to remind me of that time and all the things that came after it.” 

Alley Pascoe, writer

The book: You Be Mother by Meg Mason

“When I packed my suitcase bound for the buzzing streets of Ho Chi Minh city and the rolling beaches of Nha Trang, I didn’t realise the book I chucked in my carry-on bag was set around the corner from where I lived in Mosman on Sydney’s north shore. Meg Mason’s novel, You Be Mother, took me from the ancient town of Hoi An, where I ate Vietnamese pancakes twice a day and shopped for handmade silk pants, back to Maccallum Seawater Pool in Cremorne, where her protagonist Abi meets her older neighbour Phyllida and strikes up an unusual friendship. I was a long way from home, but every time I picked up my book, I was transported to Sydney Harbour. The setting was wildly familiar to me, but it was Mason’s relatably flawed characters that touched me most deeply and stayed with me for a very long time. Fittingly, I finished reading the book on my flight home to Sydney and I cried so much over the ending that the flight attendant asked me if I was okay. I went for a swim at Maccallum Seawater Pool when I got back and said a silent prayer to Abi and Phyllida, two entirely fictional characters I’d become irrationally attached to.”

Courtney Thompson, writer

The trip: caravanning in Tuncurry, NSW

The book: The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

“When I think of favourite holidays, my mind immediately goes to the summers spent with my grandparents at their small static caravan in Tuncurry. Growing up, I would spend a week or two with them there every year, swimming in the ocean, pining after boys who didn’t know I existed and yes, reading. A lot. Unfortunately, I’m sad to say that my taste as a 14-year-old left a lot to be desired. One summer, I inhaled the work of Nicholas Sparks, making multiple trips to the small local bookshop to satisfy my craving for corny love stories. I read them all: A Walk To Remember, The Notebook, Safe Haven, The Choice and Dear John, to name a few. I remember spending one particularly memorable afternoon that summer on the verandah bawling my eyes out. Hearing my sobs, my Pop rushed out to figure out what was causing such distress only to find me clutching The Last Song. His relief was, understandably, tinged with bafflement. I lived for the drama! At the time, the biggest complication in my life was figuring out what book to read next so I found immersing myself in the world of torrid Southern heartache delicious. Happy to say my taste has evolved and I haven’t read Sparks since that summer.”

Niamh Galea, fashion designer & founder @ramptramptrampstamp

The trip: moving to new york (and back)

“I first read Even Cowgirls Get The Blues – a story about a totally radical road-trip across the USA featuring a giant-thumbed professional hitch-hiker named Sissy – when I was unceremoniously plonked back in Sydney due to COVID. I was heartbroken that I had to leave New York and my MFA at Parsons but every-time I opened the book Sissy’s wild, messy, dirty adventure would take me back and remind me of the fantasy of America, in all it’s fucked up glory. Creepy Manhattan millionaires, sexy queer cowgirls and lots of driving on epic highways; this book by Tom Robbins was a tonic for my USA-broken-heart!”

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