When I was first teaching, I did not make the transition from the whirlwind of exam prep and marking, marks calculation, report card writing, graduation ceremonies, planning meetings... end of school year, full-on, frenzy mode... to full-stop vacation mode very well. For weeks, I moped around the house, trying to muster energy to do stuff that I needed to do (like cleaning) or even stuff that I wanted to do (like planning barbecues with friends, or shopping summer sales.) I sighed a good deal; I whined about being tired, being bored, or feeling fat. I was a mess and a total pain in the neck. Then I would have a melt-down and a "good cry," as my mum says, and I'd feel better. Sometimes this melt-down wouldn't happen until we were embarking on our canoe trip at the end of July. An hour or two from home, I'd start to sob and by the time we reached the access point and had to unload the truck, I'd feel better.
|Turner's Road, near Bonnechere, Ontario|
And this happened every year for several years, until we clued in. Well, Hubby clued in... I was too busy sighing. His plan was that we would get away from home as soon as we could after the July 1 holiday. We'd be away from the piles of household and garden chores that had been left undone in the June "rush" every teacher knows about. Thus we would have no guilt about not completing them. We'd think about nothing but what we were going to eat or drink, where to golf (for him), whether to go for a bike ride or a swim, and which book to read. This worked a treat. I still had my melt-down. But Hubby would creep away to play a round of golf, leaving me to sit on my butt, drinking tea and reading or writing in my journal all day. And feeling much more cheerful when he returned. And after five or six days, we'd pack up and go home; our summer had officially begun.
|resting my paddle on Bonnechere River|
I'd never heard of Peter May, until he cropped up on my Audible.com account as "recommended" for me. I always have a book on my i-pod that I listen to while I'm exercising or doing housework. Seriously, the only thing that can make me dust or clean the bathroom is the anticipation of listening to a good book. I've found several new writers to read and to listen to through recommendations from Audible, Australian writers Geoffrey McGeachin and Arthur Upfield to name a couple.
|Peter May source|
I did a little research on May as a writer and sampled the narrator's voice, before I ordered The Black House. When I'm listening to a book, the narrator is almost as important to me as the writing. And Peter Forbes, who narrates the Lewis Trilogy, is excellent. For a sample of Forbes reading from Peter May's book The Lewis Man check out this link. Forbes really is talented, reading all the wonderful descriptions so beautifully, and changing his tone and accent slightly for each character so it's easy to keep them all straight. I listened to his rendering of the first two books in May's trilogy, The Black House and The Lewis Man. And funnily enough, when I read the third book it was Forbes' voice I heard.
As in the first two books, the backdrop for The Chessmen is the Isle of Lewis itself, its history and unique culture. Like the character Whistler who lives in an ancient blackhouse, similar to the ones in the Gearranan Blackhouse Village pictured below.
I loved The Chessmen, as I did all three of Peter May's Lewis novels. I highly recommend them; and do try to read them in order, if you can. They're beautifully written; the prose is lean and yet wonderfully evocative. May weaves his tales skillfully, using several narrative threads, moving between the past and the present, making sure the reader understands that Fin is, as indeed we all are, unable to fully escape the past. In each book, of course, a murder is solved, sometimes more than one. But more importantly, in each book, Fin struggles to come to terms with his own personal history, with the history of his friends, his community and even his culture. And he also realizes that moving forward, having a future, always involves recognizing, understanding and even atoning for the past.
|Scottish Highlands near Durness|
|View from the ferry enroute to the Orkney Islands|
|narrow streets of Stromness, Orkney Islands|
I can't imagine embarking on "The Great Ottawa Valley Tour" without a bag of books. In fact, I can't imagine travelling anywhere without packing books to read. France, this May, was the exception for me. On every other trip we've ever taken, I can recall at least one rainy day spent reading, often with a cup of hot tea, sometimes a fire (even a peat fire in Ireland), and a good book. We always travel with books.
And, you know, that title "Have Books Will Travel" works the other way as well. I've spent many rainy, or snowy, afternoons at home reading, and been transported somewhere completely different by the book I'm reading. Somewhere like the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland.
What do you read on holiday?
Linking up with All About You Link Party and Thursday Blog Hop