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on 15 November 2013
Stanley Middleton, Holiday

`Fifty years hence, someone will pull me out of his head. I am not displeased.' Thus Stanley Middleton in a poem recalling names from his past. Author of over 40 novels, joint winner of the Booker Prize in 1975, Middleton refused an honour from the Wilson government, and published Holiday to refute Auberon Waugh's dictum that flashbacks were the death of any good novel. In fact flashback is an inherent part of the structure of Holiday, whose hero, Edwin Fisher during a period of marital breakdown tells of his childhood, school life, courtship and his disastrous marriage to Meg, a woman who is his very antithesis.

The novel begins in an East Coast seaside resort, where schoolmaster Fisher has gone to escape from constant domestic squabbles with his bellicose wife. While he drifts from beach to bar, from church to his digs, with their lace curtains and view of rooftops and television aerials, he meets a range of tramps, holidaying families, sunbathing girls - and ultimately chances upon his father-in-law, David Vernon. The one thing that Edwin and Meg have in common is an imposing and embarrassing father. But while Edwin's father is safely dead, Meg's is only too alive. Vernon has clearly arrived at the resort as a peacemaker, a friendly but interfering solicitor, who after puffing and blowing sits down `raising the tails of his coat,' saying, `I was sorry to hear about your business,' meaning the marital break-up.

David is difficult to shake off and the many interviews between solicitor and teacher are both funny and painful, each seeking to outfox the other. Meg `appears' only in Edwin's recalled `scenes,' where again victory of principle is striven for but never achieved. Between these scenes of conflict, however, Edwin engages socially and to an extent sexually with a gallery of plebeian types, fun-loving drinkers and songsters, which serves to distract him and to broaden the human dimension of this fairly trite story about marital strife.

Middleton makes capital from the contrast in speech between the sincere ordinary folk, whose banalities are frequently excruciatingly funny, and the often pompous educated antagonists. One of David's monologues concludes: `I didn't fancy swigging with the plutocracy. So I settle on the first little workman's pub I see. And whom do I meet there? My lapsed son-in-law, Edwin Arthur Fisher, Master of Arts, Master of Education.' Which reminds Edwin of the time when he'd courted Meg, and been invited to play chess, only to find that the game was an opportunity for the soon-to-be father-in-law to triumph. `That a grown man, stolid as a farmer, could so drive himself to win an unimportant contest, had amused and then frightened Fisher.'

As Philip Davis says in his obituary of `this minor old-fashioned novelist' who died in July 2009, Middleton's stories of `struggling marriages, or recovery from trouble or loss are tales of survival and deserve their own.'
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on 31 July 2010
If you like the English realist novels of Stan Barstow or Barry Hines, you have a treat in store in Stanley Middleton. Middelton writes perveptively about a provincial 'real life'; his characters suffer classic class displacement as education separates and alienates them from their origins and each other. Middleton also writes brilliantly about failing relationships, be they between man and wife, father and son or guests in a seaside boarding house.

Holiday is a good place to start with Middleton: this Booker Prize winner from 1974 has an emotional darkness and complexity at the heart of it which contrasts brilliantly with the trappings of the English seaside. Fisher, the main character, takes a holiday in an attempt to clear his head following terrible marital strife. When his in-laws turn out to be holidaying at the same resort, wanting to patch things up, matters only worsen.

What I really love about Middleton is not his plots or even his actually rather sophisticated style, but the way he captures the 'feel' of provincial English life in thr recent past. When other modern writers write of provincial life, it is invariably with a sort of mild contempt; you can always feel they have their tickets for London literary life booked. Middleton combines the soucial nous of Eliot's Middlemarch with the sensitivity of Philip Larkin. That he is so little known says much about our Londoncentric cultural elite.
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Stanley Middleton courageously touches a subject avoided by male authors: a young father's grief. The central character, 32 year old Edwin Fisher, separated from his wife Meg about 10 days earlier due to the emotional strain of their deteriorating marriage. What they have not been able to face as-a-couple is the sudden death of their toddler, Donald, a year earlier.

Fisher is now taking a week's break on his own, revisiting the seaside town where his family holidayed in his own childhood. He spends much of his time meditating (and brooding) over happiness and family life. His memories of the town are among the happiest he has of his own father; people around him that he strikes up acquaintances with, fellow guests in the rooming house, girls on the beach, are also infectiously happy; and he reflects on his own marriage, going over his own past, trying to see where life went off the rails.

The substance of the novel is how Edwin is avoiding his grief, his state of denial. He is in a numb state where he seems unable to feel anything. Joy has left Edwin's life. He deliberately forces himself to think about other things - only at the end does Edwin reveal the tears he privately shed at the child's bedside.

Trying to help are his anxious parents-in-law (his own parents are dead) who arrive at a nearby hotel and in a clumsy way attempt to offer him emotional support, without broaching the subject of the child's death which has hurt all. His father-in-law especially talks so much and wants to help, but this family has a communication problem with the central tragedy in their lives.

This is an important, at moments tender novel that delves into male emotions in a way few books do. Edwin, a young father, has been shattered by his infant son's death although he just doesn't know how to discuss his feelings, least of all with his grieving wife.
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on 28 July 2008
Stanley Middleton's 1974, Booker-Prize winning novel "Holiday" is worth the trip.
Our hero, Edwin Fisher, has retreated to the sanctity of seaside resort town where his parents vacationed when he was a boy. Here Edwin licks his wounds after yet another row with his wife. He ponders whether to return or to take his new-found freedom and run.
Middleton adroitly takes us through the thought processes of Fisher.
At 240 pages it's not a tomb but not beach reading either.
It is a worthy Booker winner. As an American reader the idiom of Middleton some times intrudes but this is an intelligent treatment of a topic which most people have pondered.
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on 24 January 2015
Middleton's Holiday is a delightful, thoughtful, emotional journey. His sense of time and place is wonderful, as we join our protagonist Fisher on a short holiday in an English east coast seaside resort. He has recently left his wife, and seems to be retreating to his childhood as he heads for the resort he always visited as a child with his controlling father. In fact the whole week is filled with flashbacks to his childhood, and to the early years of his marriage. It comes as a surprise to realise that Fisher is only in his early 30s - he often acts and sounds like a much older man. Like his father perhaps? The theme of fatherhood is important, and the week turns on a chance meeting with his father-in-law... Will this chance meeting presage a reconciliation?

Stanley Middleton won the Booker Prize fro Holiday in 1974. Actually, the prize was shared with Gordimer's The Conservationist. Holiday would have got my vote!

(The editing of the Kindle version was not great in places - basic spelling errors being the main issue. Pity - this book deserves better!)
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VINE VOICEon 1 September 2012
Stanley Middleton's 'Holiday' seems at first too innocuous to rate a Booker Prize. A middle class academic (Fisher) takes himself off to a seaside resort (probably modelled on Skegness or Cleethorpes) to contemplate his situation after leaving his wife, only to encounter her parents. While there, he also falls in with his fellow hotel guests, who consist of a more working class set of individuals. As he ponders what went wrong, he observes the relationships of those around him and becomes involved in them.

Middleton's strength is the verisimilitude of his writing, his ability to convey the feel and atmosphere of Fisher's situation and his environment. All of the characters come to life and are believable. As Booker-winning novels go, it is a rare example of a novel which excels at more traditional aspects of writing; most of them are chosen because they are perceived as having some original quality. For me, only the ending displays any weakness. I suspect that Middleton wasn't sure where to go with it, but it's only a minor quibble.
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on 10 September 2013
My review is mostly about the Kindle edition. I am appalled by the poor editing and proofreading that went into this edition. There are typing errors on almost every page, making the reading very difficult at times. You constantly have to second guess what the original word might have been.
The editor should be ashamed!

As for the novel itself, it is still a relatively interesting account of how a marriage broke up and how the two partners are affected by it. But the story has not aged well. Some of the details and scenes are still very convincing, but on the whole the story failed to grip me.

If you want to read this novel, get the printed version. Hopefully, that was edited properly.
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on 12 December 2015
Good product and service
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on 9 January 2016
reading it now
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on 9 September 2013
An enjoyable read but
somewhat marred by simple spelling errors.Are these ebooks proof read ?. This is really not acceptable
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