This 1974 Booker Prize winner by Stanley Middleton is certainly of its time. Holiday is a well-observed look at the decline of a marriage and the British seaside.
The main character, Edwin Fisher, chooses to go on holiday to a seaside resort called Bealthorpe, which is meant to represent East Coast seaside resorts such as Skegness and Bridlington. He has gone on holiday not to enjoy himself, but to get away from the breakup of his marriage to Meg. What follows is a soul searching story into why his marriage is falling apart. Trying to make sense of life when it gets unbearably difficult is an old and universal theme in novels, and Middleton crafts an emotional and engaging story around Edwin.
That’s not to say that Fisher is alone when on holiday. Middleton creates a whole raft of peripheral characters. This includes couples such as the Smiths and the Hollies, who provide Fisher with either welcome or unwelcome distractions, as well as his own parents-in-law, who are in constant contact in order to keep his marriage to their daughter together. All these characters represent certain English archetypes and are well formed.
As well as writing about a couple’s desperate attempts to save their marriage, Middleton also appears to be writing about the long decline of the English seaside resort, which was already in full swing during the 1970s. Bealthorpe itself is fictional, but Middleton could easily be writing about Skegness or Bridlington. The town seems to be a depressing place of cheap hotels and drunk holidaymakers with nothing to do. Fisher goes to Bealthorpe because he has nostalgic views of the place from when he went as a child; but this time, it only makes him feel worse. In the novel, Fisher thinks to himself; “Who came to these places now that package deals to Ibiza or Tangiers were so cheap?” Maybe Fisher would have been happier if he went to India, like his wife plans to.