Earlier this year, I took a road trip through Tuscany. It was May, far enough into Spring to be gorgeously warm, with golden streams of light bouncing off green hills and sparkling blue waters, but not yet close to the baking, almost stifling heat the Italian countryside faces in August.
Visually, it was a dream trip, and as I made my way through Maremma, a large region of south western Tuscany, bordering the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas, I fell utterly in love. Not with a man, you understand – my husband was back in the UK – but with the rolling, fruitful, glistening Tuscan countryside.
Like most travellers, I read throughout my trip. So as I curled up in the evenings, a little too full with pasta, a little tipsy from grappa and limoncello, and breathing the soft warm Tuscan air that passed in through my window in my farmhouse B&B, I was also back in London, in a dark club, consuming overpriced drinks with Bridget Jones and raising an eyebrow at her thigh high boots.
It’s quite a contrast, right? An odd holiday reading choice? Perhaps. But actually, I’d left my own snotty, jammy-fingered, lisping, gorgeous little ones at home, just as Bridget had – so as Bridget made her way back out into the world, I stumbled through my first child-free trip in seven years.
As ‘Mad About the Boy’ era Bridget was falling for a younger man and embarking on an hilarious journey of self-discovery, I was falling for a country and getting caught by my travel companions making longing looks at Porto Santo Stefano, wondering whether I could hide from the rest of my party long enough to miss the bus and set up home in one of the cliff side villas, sending for my family to join me post haste.
And gosh, I missed my family. Travelling without them is so hard – possibly even too hard, I think. Earlier in the trip, before we reached Tuscany, I’d burst into tears watching children run through bubbles in a Venetian side street. It was so beautiful, so perfect, and I wanted my children to be there too. But this was a working holiday, so that was that.
Bridget struggles with maternal obligations too. I don’t want to spoil the brilliance that is Helen Fielding’s story of the now 50-something Bridget Jones by telling you too much about the plot, but I will say that it’s just as superb as the first books.
Bridget has grown older and been through challenge, joy and unbearable heartbreak. Daniel is still a loveable rogue. Talitha and Tom are still, well, Talitha and Tom. And, unless you missed the headlines *SPOILER ALERT* Darcy has died.
It’s not an easy read in places, but it’s brilliantly handled, without any flippancy except in that stiff upper lip, make a joke of it in order to cope in the way that us Brits tend to have down to a fine art.
So, while in Tuscany, I was back in London and now, whenever I think about Bridget I’m also back in Tuscany.
Isn’t that what’s wonderful about holiday reading? The utter escapism coupled with the comfort of finding familiarity of feeling, experience or place in a line of prose, even when you’re thousands of miles away.
What’s your most evocative holiday read?