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Heidi’s Alp by Christina Hardyment (thoughts)

November 14, 2013

Heidi's Alp by Christina Hardyment

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.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2013 8:27 am

    Beautiful review, Eva! I loved the central theme of the book – visiting the scenes of various children’s books and fairytales. I once went on a trek on Heidi’s Alp and the guide described to us how the different places were connected to the story and read parts of Johanna Spyri’s book. It was really enjoyable and fun. I would love to read Hardyment’s book. It is sad that it is out of print. Hope I can get a used copy. Thanks for this beautiful review.

  2. November 14, 2013 10:09 am

    This makes me think of Teacup-Reads (like teacup-puppies, and almost as cuddly). And I can’t recall if you’ve already discovered Joan Bodger’s bookish travel memoirs, though, sadly, a caravan is lacking. If not, you will enjoy them in a teacup-read fashion as well, I think.

  3. November 14, 2013 10:16 am

    I’ve always wanted to go on a trip like that! This book sounds marvelous, especially since you say it’s conversational and amusing. I find myself getting bored with travel literature sometimes when it takes itself too seriously, which I know is often the point but just not my favorite style. Can’t wait to find this one and read it.

  4. November 14, 2013 11:32 am

    This sounds like such fun, Eva!!! I hope my library has it!

  5. November 14, 2013 6:07 pm

    This sounds like fun! Have you read The Wilder Life? It’s not all travel, but she does visit the various Laura Ingalls Wilder sites, and she writes about them well.

  6. November 14, 2013 7:29 pm

    This sounds like a fantastic travel memoir, especially since last year I read and loved Tiina Nunnally’s translations of Andersen’s tales. And I think the fact that it all took place in the 1980’s makes it even more of a plus.

  7. November 17, 2013 1:56 pm

    There’s this great travel documentary with Simon Armitage about tracing the Gawain poet.

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