Friday, 31 July 2015

Claire Sandy's A Very Big House in the Country - BLOG TOUR GUEST FEATURE

I am delighted to be today's stop on the BLOG TOUR for Claire Sandy's A Very Big House in the Country, which was published on 30th July 2015 by Pan Macmillan.

I would like to welcome Claire, who has some great advice on 'How to Survive Your Summer Holiday'. 

How to survive your summer holiday

It had to happen. I'd got away with it for far too long. I stammered out "Yes, that would be lovely" when really I wanted to brandish a crucifix and leap out of the nearest window.

We were going on holiday with the in-laws.

A villa was booked. It wasn't the villa I would have booked but then again every villa I've ever booked has been infested with ants and blessed with a smell somewhere between 'old onions' and 'hidden corpse'. It wasn't in the country I'd have chosen, and the decor - a folksy blend of cheap and cheerless - wasn't to my taste.

I don't think I'd have hired one big minibus - "So we can all be together!" - and I certainly wouldn't have packed  a suitcase full of teabags and Spam. But I had no choice. The only way to escape this fortnight in the sun was to build a time machine, travel back to the nineties and ignore my husband when he asked me out. (I say "asked me out"; I mean "lunged at me in a wine bar".)

Not that my in-laws are  bad people. On the contrary, they're good people. But I prefer them to be good in their own house, and not at the end of my bed telling me to get up and join them on a bike ride so I don't miss the best part of the day.

Like a double agent, I smiled and pedalled and ate Pop Tarts, all the while counting down the minutes to the moment we would clamber back into the hated minibus and drive to the airport (allowing the mandatory three extra hours for the journey "just in case".)

I didn't care, you see, because I had a book.

The book became my refuge, my saviour, the place I went when the anecdotes about my husband's childhood - normal, uninteresting, a lot like yours and mine - came out for the umpty-fifth time. The book was a lover I ran to when my own beloved fell asleep on a lilo. It was the friend I cosied up to when my child cruelly preferred my mother-in-law's lap to my own.

I thought I'd brought two books, but no, there was only one in my suitcase. I was reminded of the time I brought one shoe to Paris, only this was much worse. I had to read slowly, even though I was enjoying every word and I wanted to gulp them all down like Haribo, or sauvignon blanc. (They're very good together, by the way.)

The book began to show the strain. There were smears of sun lotion across the prologue and a corner was wrinkled where it had been splashed by show-off diving from the male contingent. There were wine stains on the cover, and a Pop Tart smudge on the acknowledgements.

And then it went missing. I froze, despite the sun. I stood in my ill-advised swimsuit (when will I learn about ruching?) and ordered myself to stay calm. After a search that left the villa looking burgled, I saw the book in my husband's hands. A brief scuffle followed but I won.

Because nobody - nobody - gets between me and my book on a family holiday.

A Very Big House in the Country
By Claire Sandy
Published by Pan Macmillan (30 July 2015)
ISBN: 978-1447276258

Publisher's description
For one long hot summer in Devon, three families are sharing one very big house in the country. The Herreras: made up of two tired parents, three grumbling children and one promiscuous dog; the Littles: he's loaded (despite two divorces and five kids), she's gorgeous, but maybe the equation for a truly happy marriage is a bit more complicated than that; and the Browns, who seem oddly jumpy around people, but especially each other. By the pool, new friendships blossom; at the Aga door, resentments begin to simmer. Secret crushes are formed and secret cigarettes cadged by the teens, as the adults loosen their inhibitions with litres of white wine and start to get perhaps a little too honest ... Mother hen to all, Evie Herreras has a life-changing announcement to make, one that could rock the foundations of her family. But will someone else beat her to it?

Click here to read my review.

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