For twenty years now I’ve been crossing the channel to France to stay in my parent’s simple stone cottage in the Pays de la Loire. I visited first in my late teens, when days were leisurely, evenings were late and sleep was plentiful. Back then, my holiday always began in the Brittany Ferries bar. Nowadays, I travel with my own children, which makes for a livelier trip, but the chance for them to make their own memories in the place that I hold so dear could not be more precious to me. The boys are unequivocal in their assertion that the Brittany Ferries trip is the ‘best part’ of the holiday. At just four, the smallest is still awed by the fact that his car can fit inside a boat, and all three of them love the familiarity of the little onboard rituals that we enjoy every crossing- waving England goodbye; a drink on deck; a magic show; supper at a table with a view of the sea, and then at sundown, as the French coast appears on the horizon, changing into pyjamas ready to doze their way through the last leg of the journey.
It would be no exaggeration to say that April’s book, The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit, was one of the best that I have read for a very long time. Solnit’s writing is astoundingly good, and her interweaving of memoir, fairy tale, history and science is like nothing I’ve read before. I was so taken with the book that I immediately ordered myself a copy of several of her other books, so The Faraway Nearby will not be the last Solnit to appear in the Year in Books. I’m currently reading Hope in the Dark, which you can read more about here.
My very first book choice for the Year In Books was a Persephone book, Heat Lightning. This month, I’ve returned to Persephone, with my choice of A Writer’s Diary, Leonard Woolf’s selection of extracts from the diary of Virginia Woolf. I studied Woolf’s diaries back in my literature student days, and was utterly fascinated. This selection of extracts appeals to me not just because of its elegant dove grey Persephone dust jacket, but because Leonard Woolf has selected passages that refer to Virginia Woolf’s intellectual life and show her in the act of writing, when ‘she reveals, more nakedly perhaps than any other writer has done, the exquisite pleasure and pains… of artistic creation.’
‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:’
-Shakespeare (Sonnet 18)
I am documenting the year with monthly photographs of my kitchen table. Capturing the jumble that accumulates here, at the heart of the kitchen, is also a way to record some of the domestic stories of our family life.