Amy Shares Her Favourite Summer Reads
Summer is the season I always associate with having the time to settle into a good book or two. Most good tv has finished by the end of July and there’s nothing new on the horizon until September. There’s an abundance of long evenings to fill that are perfect for curling up with a good book. My summer holidays are also prime reading time. We normally take a ferry over to France for our holiday, so that gives me a several solid, uninterrupted hours to get my teeth in to a novel. Often I take series with me so I can feel like I’ve followed something through a journey, but anything that is either light, or amusing, or meaty is perfect for this time of year. I’ve either read every book on the following list more than once, or I’m due a reread of it. I hope you enjoy them all too!
- Angel, Elizabeth Taylor
I know what you’re thinking, but this novel is written by Elizabeth Taylor the English novelist, not the actress of the same name. Publish in 1957, it follows the life of Angelica ‘Angel’ Deverell from her first attempts at writing as an adolescent, through her success as a writer of overblown romances about the aristocracy (a world she knows nothing about), to her old age and descent into true eccentricity. Rather like Austen’s Emma, we do not necessarily like Angel, but she fascinates us; her ambition, her naivety, her complete lack of a grip on reality are gripping to read. I love this novel and it’s a joy to read on a lazy day, often being both horrifying and amusing at the same time.
- Save Me the Waltz, Zelda Fitzgerald
Olivia first brought this novel to my attention, and I was thrilled when I found a rather beautiful copy of it in a small independent bookshop in Richmond one summer’s day. With a title evoking romanticism and glamour and a plot involving ballet, I feel as if this is a novel written just for me, and it is probably the book I recommend to people most regularly. Completely absorbing, it’s ideal to read in one sitting.
- Anne of Green Gables, L M Montgomery
Last summer I sat on a sun lounger in the Loire valley and started rereading the Anne books to relax after spending time working on my MA dissertation. My childhood memories of Anne of Green Gables involve sitting on my mum’s lap on her rocking chair as she read the first three books out loud to me, a chapter a night, when I was about 5. Revisiting them as an adult, I discovered a gentle humour I never noticed, as well as a pure and timeless charm. Perfect for de-stressing!
- Persuasion, Jane Austen
Probably my all-time favourite novel. All of Austen’s books have the right mix of romance, tragedy, and social satire for a summer read, but Persuasion is, in my humble opinion, the best of the lot. Captain Wentworth is without a doubt the perfect Austen hero, and Anne Eliot gives every unlucky-in-love romantic a glimmer of hope for the future.
- Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter
I could have chosen several of Carter’s works – and if you are a teenager reading this who has never encountered The Magic Toyshop, go and read that one first – but Nights is an absorbing read that is perfect for a warm day when you don’t want to move off the sofa/hammock/floor. Magical realism is an escapist genre ideal for a summer holiday and the twists and turns of the plot make this a book that is nigh on impossible to put down.
- Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett
Again, a lot of Pratchett’s work is great for the summer but I found this particular book a great companion for my summer holiday a few years ago. Telling the tale of some seriously unconventional witches, Pratchett’s humour and turn of phrase makes this a light and enjoyable read.
- All Passion Spent, Vita Sackville-West
You might think that a novel about the end of a life is an unusual choice for summer, but trust me on this. Old age is not something to ignore until it's suddenly upon us and there's a wistful feel to this book which makes it so easy to read. A large section revolves around summer, with winter always looming. Almost entirely about how women take control of their own lives, anyone who considers themselves a feminist should read it.
- Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, P. G. Wodehouse
What’s summer without a comedy? P. G. Wodehouse seems to write sunshine into every passage of his works. Whilst I personally love this tale of Wooster being ordered to live a quiet life in the countryside and ending up leading anything but, pretty much any of Wodehouse’s sparkling comical novels will do.
- Our Spoons Came From Woolworths, Barbara Comyns
I have never read anything quite like the works of Barbara Comyns. Her naive and simple narration jumps about between topics with abandon, reflecting her character’s personalities completely. Be warned - this is not a novel that deals with easy themes. Almost entirely autobiographical, it shows the hardship of life for young artists in 1930s bohemian London.
- The Silent Shore, Ruth Elwin Harris
The first book of the ‘Sisters of the Quantock Hills’ quartet, it focuses mainly on the story of Sarah, the youngest of four sisters. It is the beginning of the twentieth century, World War One is fast approaching, and the lives of these four very different young women will never be the same again. All four novels are great, providing a comprehensive history of the four sisters from each of their points of view. However, with its innocence and gentleness, The Silent Shore will always be my favourite.
(Honourable mention for this list must go to Stardust by Neil Gaiman, a short novel that’s perfect to read in a single setting on a hot, bright afternoon.)