A Summer of Luxury | Holiday with… Walpole’s Helen Brocklebank

Anyone who knows Helen Brocklebank will know of her love of books, so it’s perhaps no surprise that in today’s ‘Holiday with…’ Walpole’s bibliophile CEO has chosen not one but four novels as her holiday read (and a podcast as her summer soundtrack).

Your favourite holiday destination?
Nothing says summer like the seaside. We were sailing in Turkey this year and in Antibes last, but if you get the weather, West Wittering, Durdle Door or Steephill Cove are blissful.

Your top tip for surviving the summer heat in style?
Three of the greatest British inventions are the cardigan, the mackintosh and the wellington boot. That’s all you need to know about dressing for a British summer, particularly now the heatwave seems to be over.

Your holiday reads this year?
I wrote last month about reading Middlemarch on holiday – I loved every one of its 837 pages, but if George Eliot’s not your bag, here are four other books I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this summer:

East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman

Javid ‘Jay’ is a small time drug-dealer living with his mum in Hounslow. He goes to mosque on a Friday night because he knows it’s expected of him, but he’s much more interested in his BMW and his Xbox, until he finds himself caught between MI5 and a group of Jihadists. It’s a black comedy pitched as a thriller, and Rahman’s skill is in balancing the comic possibilities of a hapless Hounslow boy caught up in a situation that’s both serious and tragic.

Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan

Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer with boyfriend Nick Young at a family wedding in Singapore, little realising he’s the heir to one of Singapore’s most fabulous fortunes and his formidable mother has firm views on who her son should – and shouldn’t – marry. Funny and glamorous, Kevin Kwan’s novel is an Asian Cinderella meets Jilly Cooper. The film, coming to the UK in November, looks brilliant too.

The Party, Elizabeth Day

Gauche, lonely schoolboy, Martin Gilmour, is befriended by the posh, popular and wealthy Ben Fitzmaurice, and soon Martin is invited into Ben’s life of country house parties, tennis and dressing for dinner. It’s a relationship that becomes bound by a secret Martin has about Ben, until things come to a cataclysmic head many years later at Ben’s 40th birthday party. It’s a tale of obsession and betrayal, privilege and hypocrisy, set at the heart of the British establishment.

Rogue Male, Geoffrey Household

The eponymous Rogue Male of the book, a British aristocrat, sets out with his rifle in the Summer of 1938 to stalk and kill a European Dictator. He’s caught before he can pull the trigger, is badly tortured but escapes and makes his way back to England where he goes into hiding to avoid recapture by his pursuers. So far, so John Buchan, but this intriguing book is far from a straightforward spy story – imagine nature notes written by James Bond.

Your summer soundtrack?
This is what I listened to when I drove the Bentley Continental GT to see Walpole’s members in the South West last week – old favourites that made the most of the Continental’s Naim for Bentley sound system. Try it in your own Bentley, or stick on some headphones and try to imagine what it’s like to be propelled down the A303 by a six litre turbo-powered W12 engine – 0-60 in 3.6 seconds is an extraordinary thrill.

Disorder by Joy Division
Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin
Levels by Avicii
The Chain by Fleetwood Mac
Money by Pink Floyd
(Playlist is on Spotify here)

Running around London on shanks’ pony is rather slower than something with more than 600 horsepower, but gives me time to catch up on podcasts – my favourite at the moment is ‘How to Fail’ by Elizabeth Day in which she talks to interesting people from Phoebe Waller Bridge and Gina Miller to Sebastian Faulkes about how their failures offer valuable lessons about how to succeed.

Your favourite al fresco drinking/dining spot?
I’m more al desko than al fresco but the ultimate outdoor dining spot has to be Glyndebourne – the gardens are magnificent, people look so glamorous in black tie, and everyone goes to great lengths with their picnics ( flower arrangements and candelabra on linen-covered picnic tables are not unusual). I saw a brilliant Giulio Cesare earlier in the season and Glyndebourne’s production of Samuel Barber’s rarely performed Vanessa was a huge treat last week. The season ends on 26th August – try to grab some tickets.