If you’re going abroad soon you’ll need a book or two, or a load on your Kindle, to pass the time in the sun.

Or you could go one step further and choose a holiday read to match your destination.

From the coast of Cornwall to the Hollywood hills,  we’ve asked six top authors to explain about the towns and scenery that inspired their novels, and why readers should pay them a visit in person too.

1. If you’re exploring the Italian olive groves

Read: The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas

The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas, published by Headline Review.
(Headline Review)


This romantic tale sees a woman buy a crumbling Italian farmhouse. Though she doesn’t know a thing about it, she’s decided to try her hand at running an olive farm, and encounters lessons on friendship and romance along the way.

Jo Thomas had never heard of Puglia, in southern Italy, until her brother and his wife invited her there after buying a house in the region.

She said: “Their house is in rural, working Ceglie Messapica, next door to swanky neighbour Martina Franca, a fabulous place to take an evening stroll. The locals dress smartly and walk the town in the early evening sunlight, stopping to chat with friends and neighbours.

Puglia, Italy.
Puglia in Italy(Thinkstock)


“The fictional town of Entroterra in my book is set between Martina Franca, Ceglie Messapica and Cisternino, hilltop towns overlooking the Valle d’Itria in the heel of Italy. I remember walking up through Cisternino… It was market day; there was chatter, calls, money changing hands.

“There were oranges as big as footballs and tomatoes that you could smell before you saw them. Looking out from the top of the hill, where the church stood, the valley below looked like someone had dropped a blanket over it, a patchwork quilt of olive trees.”

The Oliver Branch is published by Headline Review, £7.99 paperback. 

2. If you’re ogling the houses of Ireland

Read: My Mother’s Secret by Sheila O’Flanagan.

My Mother's Secret by Sheila O'Flanagan, published by Headline Review.
(Headline Review)


From the bestselling author of Bad Behaviour and If You Were Me comes a new novel which begins on a romantic holiday in sunny Rome. However, the main action takes place in Aranbeg, Jenny and Pascal’s house which is situated in the fictional town of Castlemoran, near the real town of Wexford in the south-east Ireland.

The Slaney River, in Ireland
The Slaney River in Ireland (Thinkstock)


O’Flanagan said: ”One of the main attractions of Wexford is a selection of old houses and gardens, and although Aranbeg is a family home and not half as grand as the restored houses with public gardens, the idea of it was inspired by them. You can see some of them on the Wexford tourist board site.

“The river that runs through Aranbeg’s garden (the Iske, which is an anglicised version of the Irish word Uisce, which means water) is a fictional tributary of the Slaney.”

My Mother’s Secret is published by Headline Review, £14.99 hardback.

3. If you’re going to Hollywood

Read: West Of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan. 

West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan
(Allen & Unwin)


The last three years of American writer F Scott Fitzgerald’s life, often obscured by the legend of his earlier Jazz Age glamour, are the focus of Stewart O’Nan’s heartfelt new novel.

He said: “While most of F Scott Fitzgerald’s Hollywood haunts are long gone, Musso & Frank’s restaurant has survived intact, the decor seemingly untouched since he and Sheilah Graham (Fitzgerald’s partner) ate there. Waiters in the same red vests from the 30s bustle between tables, delivering huge bloody steaks and knockout cocktails.

“Just up the street on Hollywood Boulevard, the Egyptian Theater, where Fitzgerald’s Three Comrades debuted, still hosts gala premieres, and the Roosevelt Hotel, further up the boulevard, is where the stars still go for the after-party.

Catalina Island Resort and Avalon Bay, California
Catalina Island Resort and Avalon Bay, California (Thinkstock)


“Another place that’s miraculously remained the same are the old MGM Studios, now owned by Sony. While the backlot was bulldozed in the 70s, the sound stages are still there and the white art deco Thalberg building, and the prop and lighting and wardrobe shops, even the little bungalows MGM assigned to Joan Crawford and Clark Gable and Greta Garbo. Tours are available.

“Take a drive up the coast to Malibu or stroll the Santa Monica Pier, catch a dayboat to Catalina or wind through the hills along Mulholland Drive for a sense of the elemental. For all its concrete and smog, the city’s a garden spot, in bloom nine months a year.”

West of Sunset is published by Allen & Unwin, £12.99.

4. If you’re staying on the Cornish coast

Read: The Little Flower Shop By The Sea by Ali McNamara.

The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara


Soak up the Cornish ambience in this feel-good tale set in the fictional harbour town of St Felix, where Poppy Carmichael returns to run the flower shop she’s inherited from her grandmother. Poppy struggles with the responsibility, plus there’s the added complication of Jake, the gruff but gorgeous local flower grower.

McNamara says: “St Felix is very much based on my own holidays down in the gorgeous harbour town of St Ives on the Cornish coast. I love St Ives; I’ve holidayed there more times than I can remember, and it never disappoints.

the Cornish fishing village of St Ives
The Cornish fishing village of St Ives(PA)


“Why is it so special? Could it be the beautiful golden beaches, the delightful harbour, the pretty little shops, the clifftop walks, or the artists’ studios full of spectacular paintings? There’s also the delicious food, the magnificent light and the very mild climate.

“If you’re lucky enough to visit St Ives, go for more than a day – there’s so much to see and do. If you like art, visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum, a unique garden of the artist’s sculptures, hidden away in the middle of the town. Visit all of the beaches; they all offer something different. Porthminster is a lovely family beach with an award-winning cafe, with some of the best fish and chips I’ve ever had!”

The Little Flower Shop By The Sea is published by Sphere, £7.99 paperback, available August 4.

5. If you’re travelling Europe by train

Read: Us by David Nicholls.

 Us by David Nicholls, published by Headline


If you haven’t yet read this highly acclaimed bestseller from David Nicholls, the author behind One Day and Starter For 10, it will give you some great laughs if you’re inter-railing around Europe.

The story sees a middle-aged man take a grand tour of Europe with his family in a bid to save his marriage – but what starts off as a culture tour ends in a catalogue of disasters in uncomfortable circumstances, from searing city heat to a sea full of jellyfish.

Berlin train
Berlin (Andreas Lehner 2015/Flickr)


Nicholls says his own misadventures inspired some of the episodes in the book, but not the marital discord, just the physical discomfort.

He said: “I’ve tried to see all of Florence in 45 minutes, I’ve missed trains. I hate beaches… The idea of spending eight hours on the beach is hell. I burn easily, I hate that smell of suntan oil and feeling dirty. Some people love sand in their toes – but why would you want sand between your toes? I like cities, in winter, with a map.”

Us is published by Headline, £7.99 paperback.

6. If you’re sightseeing in South Africa

Read: Up Against The Night by Justin Cartwright.

Up Against The Night


This novel centres on South Africa – the author’s birthplace – its beautiful landscape, violent past and uncertain present.

Cartwright said: ”I was born in Cape Town and often return, although I have lived in England since arriving in Oxford in the late 60s. Although I am deeply disturbed by South Africa and the way it’s going, I’ve always loved the landscape.

“The fictional house on the beach I see as being in Llandudno [yes - the same name as the Welsh town!], just past Camps Bay and before Hout Bay. It is the absolutely perfect beach, although the water is freezing. That whole coastline, right down to the Cape of Good Hope, appears in the book.

the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
The Cape of Good Hope, South Africa (Thinkstock)


“My favourite is the Cape of Good Hope reserve. I have had food stolen there by baboons three times. By the way, they are the only protected baboons in South Africa and have been the subject of endless research into their family and clan groups.

“Further afield, I love Franschhoek and its faux-Frenchness; it has some truly great restaurants, all set in a valley cloaked by vines.”

Up Against The Night is published by Bloomsbury, £16.99, available August 27.