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5 Great books about summer holidays

5 Great books about summer holidays

Bestselling author Lucinda Riley reveals her five favourite books based around summer holidays, and tells us about her thrilling new novel, The Olive Tree.

The Shell Seekers

by Rosamunde Pilcher


I adore Rosamond Pilcher’s characters, and Penelope Keeling in The Shell Seekers is one of my favourites. When the story begins, Penelope is in her sixties and has just had a heart attack, leading her to decide to make some changes in her life, especially regarding a large painting by her late father. While her children hope to sell it for their own profit, Penelope goes on a beautiful holiday to Cornwall, and remembers a love from long ago…

It’s a wonderful family saga that has inspired my own writing, and it captures English domestic life, at a certain period in time, incredibly well.


The Enchanted April 

by Elizabeth von Arnim


This is a light and joyful novel set in 1920s England, when four very different women decide to go on holiday to Italy on a whim. It’s the perfect book to read if you’re stuck in rainy England, and you feel that your life needs to be shaken up a little bit.

All the characters are described with such wit and charm, and although the holiday is not short of clashes (which holidays are?) the main characters all find themselves rejuvenated by the Italian landscape.


Brideshead Revisited

by Evelyn Waugh


This is one of my favourite novels of all time. Initially set in 1923 in Oxford, when Charles Ryder, a lonely student, is captivated by the eccentric and outrageously rich Lord Sebastian Flyte. When Charles is invited to Brideshead, Sebastian’s ancestral home, he becomes completely absorbed in this remarkable family.

Although it’s not a novel about "holidays" as we know them today, several sections—particularly those set in Venice, Paris, and aboard a transatlantic ocean liner—perfectly capture the excitement and possibilities presented by temporarily leaving one’s homeland. Waugh’s prose is so lyrical and poetic. I have read this novel countless times, and still there is always something new to discover.



A Half-Forgotten Song

by Katherine Webb


Set on the Dorset coast in the 1930s, the 14-year-old Mitzy is drawn into the life of the artist Charles Aubrey and his exotic family, who spend their summers there and who take in the strange lonely girl, opening her eyes to art, beauty and love.

The author takes us between the past and the present, where the art gallery owner and hopeful artist Zach goes to Dorset to write a book about Charles Aubrey. There he discovers an old and isolated Mitzy, who has kept an explosive secret inside her for decades…



The Dud Avocado 

by Elaine Dundy


Set in Paris in the 1950s, the story follows Sally, a young American who spends the summer nights in jazz clubs, and the days entangled in an affair with a married man. She is optimistic, brazen and adventurous, and above all, funny.

Dundy writes about some of my favourite places in Paris, such as Montparnasse and Saint Germain, and her heroine lives out her wildest dreams in one of the most beautiful cities on earth.


About my new book...


The Olive Tree is inspired by my own family holiday in Cyprus, over ten years ago. We stayed in a beautiful old house, full of children and family friends. I put the unfinished manuscript away, and found it again a couple of years ago when I was clearing out my desk. It was fascinating to read the descriptions I’d written when my children were young and I immediately set out to finish it.

At the heart of The Olive Tree is a crumbling villa called "Pandora". Twenty-four years ago, Helena spent a magical holiday there, and fell in love for the first time. When her godfather dies, she inherits "Pandora", and returns to spend the summer there with her family.

Yet Helena knows that the idyllic beauty of Pandora masks a web of secrets she has kept from William, her husband, and Alex, her eldest son... 

Lucinda Riley was born in Ireland, and after an early career as an actress in film, theatre and television, wrote her first book aged 24. Her books have been translated into over 30 languages and sold over ten million copies worldwide. She is a Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author.


The Olive Tree is published by Pan at £7.99

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