As you now are full of inspiration, from our June newsletter, of places to go and relax. We now arm you with book ideas. Personally, nothing evokes summer to me more than Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book. The Moomin creator delivers a semi-autobiographical treat in the tale of an elderly artist spending the summer with her granddaughter on an island in the Gulf of Finland. A book full of wit and wisdom, and wonderfully evocative of the wild beauty of the Nordic islands.
With the theme of islands in mind, why not head further afield into another archipelago? This time in the rugged terrain of Quebec in Margaret Atwood’s second novel, Surfacing. The story centres around a woman who returns to her hometown to find her missing father. Accompanied by her lover and another couple, the unnamed protagonist meets her past in her childhood home, recalling events and feelings, whilst trying to make sense of her father’s mysterious disappearance. Little by little, the past overtakes her driving her into the realm of wildness and madness. Written long before A Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood explores themes of separation and identity – one of my favourites!
I remember in only a few days (sitting by a pool) tearing through Gabriel García Márquez’s A Hundred Years of Solitude. It is compulsive reading! The story explores multiple generations of the Buendía family, whose patriarch, José Arcadio Buendía, founded Macondo, a fictitious town in Colombia. Over the course of a hundred years (no surprises there) we venture with the family through the trials and tribulations of their lives; political upheavals, romances etc – all told in exquisite magical realist style.
For a real evocation of summer and romance why not pick up Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman. The Italy of this novel, set by the sea, sweeps you into the sweltering heat of a 1980s summer. I remember feeling that I could almost smell the lavender, taste the apricot juice and feel the sea breeze on my skin (you can tell that the heat is getting to me). In amongst this gorgeous setting, a romance blossoms between the 17-year-old boy, Elio, and his father’s guest, a 24-year-old visiting scholar called Oliver. We are witness to their summer of discovery and intimacy as well as the 20 years that follow.
To finish off, I shall continue with the “coming of age” theme in Donna Tartt’s first novel, The Secret History. After reading the first sentence, I remember thinking to myself, “you’re in good hands”. Luckily, I had a summer holiday, or I worry that I would have phoned in sick to work – I tore through this novel. Set at a New England college, where a group of classics students end up forming a very tight bond. An inverted detective story narrated by one of the students, who reflects years later on a situation that led to murder. The novel explores the circumstances and lasting effects of the murder on the academically and socially isolated group of Classics students of which he was a part. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
We would love to know your favourite summer books too. I’ll run out to Hugendubel now before sneaking off down to the park to meet with that parallel version of myself.