For the professional reader, it is always tough deciding which book to take abroad
Choosing a book for holiday reading is always an anxious business, even - or perhaps especially - for a professional reader like myself. It needs to be engrossing, artistically satisfying, portable and long enough to beguile many hours. Usually I end up packing several books - far too many, in fact - as a kind of insurance, and bringing most of them home unread.
In the 1970s we regularly took family holidays in Connemara, where my wife's sister and her husband had a cottage on the beautiful and tranquil bay of Cashel. Usually we stayed at a somewhat ramshackle hotel at Roundstone, a little fishing port not far away, where if you were lucky you could sometimes see seals swimming past the harbour wall as you sipped a Guinness in the evening sunshine.
One year, early in that sequence of holidays - I think it must have been 1971, because that's the date on the copyright page of my Panther paperback, and it hadn't been reprinted - I took with me John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman. It seemed to me that I had made the perfect choice. Fowles's novel has a cracking story that would keep any reader turning the pages, but it also plays all kinds of literary games - metafictional authorial interpolations, philosophical asides, deliberate anachronisms, multiple endings - which fascinated me both as a novelist and as a critic. And Connemara, only superficially touched by 20th-century civilisation, seemed an appropriate place in which to be reading this highly romantic seaside tale mostly set in 19th-century Lyme Regis.
I returned to Birmingham feeling mentally as well as physically refreshed - thanks, in large part, to The French Lieutenant's Woman.
David Lodge's new novel, Author, Author, is published in September by Secker & Warburg