The Holiday Friend by Pamela Hansford Johnson

 The Holiday Friend cover

The Holiday Friend by Pamela Hansford Johnson was first published in 1972 but was republished by Hodder and Stoughton in 2018.

Gavin Eastwood is a college lecturer and happily married to Hannah for many years, they have an eleven year old son. They had hoped to have more children but it just never happened, the result is that they are very over-protective of their son Giles and as a consequence he’s rather immature for his age.

For several years they’ve gone to The Hotel Albert in a small coastal town in Belgium, the food is good, everyone is so friendly there and it feels like a home from home to the Eastwoods. Unknown to them a young woman has followed them there. Melissa is a student at the college where Gavin teaches and although she isn’t one of his students she attends all of his lectures, sitting at the back just ogling him. She’s absolutely besotted with him so when she heard Gavin in passing telling a colleague where he was going on holiday with his family, Melissa was delighted, she scraped up the money and booked a room at a cheaper hotel in the same town. She is quite sure that as she loves Gavin so much he must return her feelings and she fantasises about being married to him. She’s a very immature 22 year old.

Almost immediately on her arrival Melissa seeks out Gavin and family, Gavin vaguely recognises her and in no time she’s inserted herself into their lives, all the time barely acknowledging Hannah. The wife realises what is happening immediately, as do the other guests but if Gavin is being honest he rather likes the attenton of a much younger woman and doesn’t immediately rebuff Melissa as he should. Hannah is seething at the effrontery of Melissa’s behaviour and the idiocy of her husband who she knows is not in the least bit interested in Melissa but doesn’t want to squash her. But Melissa is so determined in her mission to have Gavin that the only thing that would derail her plans would be a good dose of brutal truth.

Gavin and Hannah’s longed for holiday is ruined as they spend time trying to avoid Melissa, and dealing with their worries about Giles who has had a slight temperature. Giles has had quite a lot of time on his own on the beach and elsewhere, and they haven’t really being paying him as much attention as usual. You just know that things are not going to end well.

This was a really good read.