Author Patricia Nicol reveals a selection of the best books on: Family staycations

Author Patricia Nicol reveals a selection of the best books on: Family staycations

  • Patricia Nicol picked out selection of captivating books about family staycations
  • Two recent novels show family staycations as high-stress, even tragic events
  • In children’s books the best adventures happen when households mix 

A female relative, a mother to four boys, once told me how conflicted she felt about their family’s annual summer holiday to Cornwall.

Photos suggested sunny experiences: a mug of tea overlooking sparkling sea while her offspring surfed. But competing memories were of domestic tedium: sweeping up sand; laundering damp, salty clothing; catering in an unfamiliar kitchen; rainy days, when everyone moaned about the wi-fi.

Even six or seven years ago, they paid a hefty premium for this attractively-located cottage. I dread to think what it is renting for in August 2021; we are all staycationers now.

Over the past fortnight, many have taken advantage of the latest easing of lockdown that opened up self-catering, albeit only to one household. But that single bubble rule put me off. It is not a new set of walks and walls I crave, but hanging out with friends.

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Patricia Nicol picked out a selection of captivating books about family staycations, with two recent adult books depicting them as high-stress, even tragic events, including Sarah Moss’s Summerwater and Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13

In children’s books the best adventures happen when households mix. The high-jinks of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows And Amazons take place over a summer in the Lake District during which two groups of children sail, camp and play together. Imagine if they’d had to mess around with masks and hand-sanitiser, rather than just boats?

In two recent British novels for adults, family staycations are depicted as high-stress, even tragic events. Summerwater by Sarah Moss is set in a rundown cabin park in the western Highlands over one long, wet summer holiday day. As rain falls, one mother flees her family lodge early to run, some children bicker by the loch, the music from one cabin keeps everyone else awake; a tragedy slowly unfurls.

In Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13, the worst has already happened: a 13-year-old girl, on a New Year’s walking trip to the Peak District, has gone missing. His novel explores the impact on the villagers.

If you have braved new beds and April showers this month, then I hope you had a wonderful holiday. I am holding out for May when hopefully households will be able to mix, and we can finally visit Scotland and grandparents. No sun guaranteed.


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