Patricia Nicol reveals a selection of the best books on Holiday jobs

Author Patricia Nicol reveals a selection of the best books on: Holiday jobs

Do young people still do holiday and weekend jobs? I first went to work, at 15, as ‘a sweets girl’, making puddings such as knickerbocker glories, at a restaurant. 

My intention had been to save up to go Interrailing, but on a starting salary that I recall as £1.13, raised to £1.76 an hour, I was barely going to be able to reach the next town. 

Later, I had better-paid Saturday shop jobs, and would do (badly) silver service waitressing gigs. 

My university holiday jobs included waitressing, bar work, switchboard operating, teaching English as a foreign language to Italian and Greek schoolchildren. And, most bizarrely, dental nursing. 


British author Patricia Nicol has rounded up a selection of the best books on holiday jobs including Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen and The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent

I learned a good deal from these jobs: that education is not the same as intelligence; that, in any workplace, there will always be some kind people determined to see a young person succeed, and some who need to be (or will never be) won over. 

In and out of kitchens, pulling pints, carrying serving platters, smiling welcomingly at a company’s reception desk, I also learned a wearisome amount about the kind of male predatory behaviour that in the 1980s and 1990s felt endemic. 

Nina Stibbe’s most recent novel, One Day I Shall Astonish The World brought that era back to me vividly. It starts in the summer of 1990. Protagonist Susan is a student with a holiday job in a haberdashery shop that accidental pregnancy makes a permanent role. 

Another darkly comic novel, ­Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen, is also set over a 1990s summer. 

While awaiting their A-level results, Northern Irish Catholics Maeve, Caroline and Aoife, get work in a shirt-­making factory. 

For working-class protagonist Maeve, the role is a stepping-stone to a uni place in London. But that holiday job, amid a sectarian workforce, is also an education. 

The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent, is a fresh romcom set at a posh hotel in Scotland. Birdy tells a white lie to escape it all to a dream job. But the truth always outs, doesn’t it?

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