Writer's shock not writer's block

This is going to surprise those who know me in real life. I'm taking a week's holiday next month!

Yup. No internet, no editing, no blogging ... I can't say no writing, as I'm packing my moleskines and writing pens, but nothing with a keyboard. I'm going back to the South of France, very near to where we used to live seventeen years ago. We've rented a cottage (no internet) in a village (no shop) not very near a town (great cassoulet).

When did I last take a holiday? ... um ... er ... hmmm. I don't know, is the honest answer.

What I am packing, along with the writing notebooks, is reading material. I can read a book a day easily (that's a working day, so what about days off? Well I can't remember when I last took a whole day off, but I can read two slim books easily on a Sunday, between working on the allotment, walking dogs, baking for the week ahead and writing and editing.)

So what novels would you recommend?

I've got Umberto Eco's The Island of the Day Before which I've been saving up, and Hilary Mantell's A Place of Greater Safety (that's a re-read: it's one of my annual pilgrimages to the books that have changed my literary life, Hilary's a rare soul: two of my life-changing books were written by her, an honour bestowed on no other writer) and Mario Vargas Llosa's In Praise of the Stepmother (The Storyteller is the Llosa on my pilgrimage list) but what else? Give me suggestions, enticements, harangues and hints!

The picture shows summer solstice bento ... eaten on the beach!

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