Heidi’s Alp by Christina Hardyment (thoughts)
Sometimes I want books that challenge me, provoke me, thrill me. And sometimes I just want something well written but light hearted, that I can curl up with while sipping a cup of tea and remind myself that the world is full of good as well as bad. Heidi’s Alp by Christina Hardyment admirably fulfilled the latter need! Hardyment is English, and one summer she decided to go on a caravan trip around Europe, with her four daughters and eventually husband (due to work obligations, he couldn’t join in from the beginning; instead, the caravan was even more full when Hardyment’s friend and baby daughter ride along). In order to keep the children interested, Hardyment came up with the brilliant idea to structure the trip around visiting the scenes of various children’s books and fairy tales. While several books are referenced, Hardyment seems particularly entranced with Hans Christian Andersen, providing a light common theme running through the story.
But really, this is just a fun, bookish adventure tale! Hardyment is good at sketching scenes and has a wry sense of humour, willing to poke fun at herself as well as her family. While the mood occasionally becomes more serious, particularly when the family ventures into East Germany (this occurred in the 1980s), for the most part it left me smiling and giggling. I was also quite jealous of the campervan; between this book and Carr’s journals I’m now in love with the idea of having a little campervan of my own. I imagine Thistle and I would be quite snug in it! Sadly, they seem not to exist in the US, land of monster RVs and pick up truck bed camping and nothing in between.
Back to the book: reading it feels as if you’ve invited your smart and funny friend to tea, and over the afternoon she fills you in on her family’s latest trip. I found the combination of domestic details with literary bits and travelling scenes irresistible, and I suspect many other readers will agree. It’s sadly out of print, but hopefully your library or used bookstore will have a copy! Thanks to Danielle for her wonderful (and far more detailed) post that had me pick this one up in the first place! And if anyone else has any bookish travel themed books to suggest, I’d be appreciative.