Nick could have a great time in Malta if it weren’t for one thing: his family. His wife Laura, biological clock ticking, is desperate for children and that means a nightly test of Nick’s ingenuity to resist her amorous advances. There’s Dad, afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, scarcely able to walk or talk, unsure which country or decade he’s in and obsessed by sex and lavatories. And there’s Mum, weighing in at a formidable 18 stone (although she’s convinced she’s a size 10) with a personality to match. Then there’s the ghost from Dad’s wartime past, come back to haunt them all . . .
Tackling a taboo subject with sensitivity, compassion and a total lack of sentimentality, What We Did On Our Holiday is about the time in our lives when we find ourselves looking after the very people we’d always assumed would be there to look after us.
Shortlisted for the W H Smith New Talent Award
‘An exceptional first novel. The rite of passage that occurs when the roles of parent and child are reversed has been well covered in fiction, but rarely as movingly as here. Harding tackles a difficult subject with a light touch, great humour and a complete lack of mawkishness. What really makes this book special, however, is its lack of blame or rancour. For all his characters’ annoyances, jealousies and power struggles, the relationships Harding explores – in what Richard Ford called “applause-less lives” – are underpinned with great love and humanity. A really wonderful book.’
‘The brutal honesty of life with an ailing parent is relieved by wild humour and heartbreaking compassion in this very impressive debut novel. Using his own father’s 25-year experience of Parkinson’s disease as a subject was a brave move by John Harding which succeeds brilliantly.’
‘A brilliant first novel that tackles disability with humour.’
‘At times so moving it’s painful to read, this book is beautifully written and very funny.’
‘This is a novel about the trials and tribulations of family life which will strike a chord with many readers. Harding handles a difficult subject with great sensitivity.’
Mail on Sunday
‘A wonderfully funny, original and moving novel. Harding has knife-sharp observation, immaculate timing, and the guts to take his story as far as it will go.’
‘A wonderful novel, written with great humour and a rare generosity of spirit. Truly original and beautifully controlled, right up to its gripping and painful denouement.’
‘Black humour tinged with despair. A wonderfully touching portrait of the relationship between a son and his father as the latter descends into senility.’
‘A truly lovely tale of a couple taking elderly parents on holiday. A warm, affectionate, humorous and touching read. I highly recommend it.’
‘Funny and touching.’
‘Potentially grim reading, but Harding mixes humour with the tragedy and there’s so much humanity in his writing that it’s difficult not to be drawn into the lives of his characters.’
Hampstead and Highgate Express
‘With characters who are warm and funny, yet demanding too, What We Did On Our Holiday is a truly moving novel, tackling an emotional subject with humour and compassion.’
‘Witty and sad – very sad in parts – but the ending is not an unhappy one.’
‘John Harding balances warmth and wonderful humour with genuine, from-the-heart compassion to produce the most unusual, entertaining and thought-provoking book I’ve read in years.‘
WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY was made into a two hour television film by ITV, starring Shane Richie, Roger Lloyd-Pack and Pauline Collins, broadcast in 2006. The film rights are now available again.