Under the Boardwalk

...down by the sea, on a blanket with my books is where I'll beNote 1Lyrics modified from the original. The Drifters. "Under the Boardwalk." By Kenny Young & Arthur Resnik. Under the Boardwalk. Atlantic, 1964. Single.. Of course, my version of a perfect summer vacation involves sitting by the sea with a tote bag full of interesting books, rather than engaging in a secret seaside tryst! The thought of reading without any interruptions or guilty thoughts of unfinished chores, emails waiting to be answered, or plants needing to be watered is enough to make me swoon!

While vacation reading is hardly a new concept, I am reluctant to use the ubiquitous term beach reads for the books I am recommending. Somehow, the term brings to mind books that are poorly-writtenmere fluffnot nearly interesting enough to hold your attention nor significant enough to leave you thinking long after you have finished reading them. Instead, I am recommending books that are too well-written to be relegated merely to the beach. So regardless of whether your summer getaway is to the beach, the poolside, or a cabin in the woods, below are a number of must-reads that I know you will enjoy even if you are simply staying at home this summer.
The Vacationers by Emma Straub

Traveling to Mallorca is not an option for you this summer? Then the next best thing is reading about it! The Posts, Franny, a food and travel writer, and Jim, an editor, are celebrating their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary and their daughter's high school graduation with a two week trip to Mallorca. Joining them on this trip are their son, a realtor, and his much older girlfriend, a personal trainer. Fran's best friend Charles and his spouse, Lawrence, are also along for the ride. Sounds like a delightful vacation in an idyllic spot with family and friends, right? Wrong. Infidelity, job loss, and teenage angst abound, bringing to mind the opening line from Tolstoy's novel, Anna Karenina, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." With well-defined characters, and an interesting storyline, The Vacationers by Emma Straub is a satisfying and entertaining read.
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

Having read and enjoyed Helen Simonson's delightful debut novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, I expected her second novel to be just as good. The Summer Before the War met and exceeded my expectations. The story is set in early 20th century Rye, in England, where a charming young teacher, Beatrice Nash, rides into town on her bicycle with dreams of becoming a writer. Beautiful, clever and headstrong, Beatrice comes to Rye to teach Latin to the village children. World War I casts a shadow over the bucolic and peaceful town and, though there is not much action in this book, it tells a good story, replete with eccentric characters such as Mr. Puddlecombe, Mr. Poot and Mr. Pike. Anglophiles who miss Downton Abbey are sure to enjoy this beautifully-written novel of manners in the style of Jane Austen.
Summerland, by Elin Hilderbrand

Summerland, by Elin Hilderbrand, is set in Nantucket, Massachusetts. The story unfolds as tragedy strikes: four teenagers are driving back after a graduation night celebration. The car crashes, instantly killing the driver, Penny Alistair, and leaving her twin brother, Hobson, in a coma. The other two passengers, Jake and Demeter, walk away, physically unscathed but emotionally traumatized. Penny had a beautiful voice and was destined for a great career while Hobson was a star athlete. Both could have had their pick of the elite colleges. The future had seemed rosy for these teenagers. So what made Penny drive so rashly, killing herself and jeopardizing the lives of the other passengers? And therein lies the mystery. Beautifully descriptive of Nantucket Island and a deeply-felt portrayal of a small community as it struggles to understand and cope with grief and loss.

All Summer Long by Dorthea Benton Frank
All Summer Long by Dorthea Benton Frank is a story about a successful New York interior designer, Olivia Ritchie, and her professor husband, Nicholas Seymour, who want to retire to Charleston, South Carolina. Olivia is filled with doubt about giving up her thriving business and moving. Will she be able to settle for a slower pace? With financial concerns looming, is giving up her business a wise option? Enter Bob and Maritza Vasile, Olivia's glitzy, billionaire friends who take the couple on a trip to Necker Island, and other glamorous locales, aboard their private yacht. Downsizing and moving to a different place tests the bonds of Olivia's and Nick's fourteen year marriage, but they are clever enough to realize that money does not buy happiness. Realistic character portrayals, and great atmospheric details makes this a fun read for the summer.

So enjoy your summer with books that are well written with captivating characters and engrossing storylines that will transport you elsewhere. Books that are meaningful enough to be absorbing but not so heavy that they make you forget it is, after all, summer.

-Rina B.

Note 1 Lyrics modified from the original. The Drifters. "Under the Boardwalk." By Kenny Young & Arthur Resnik. Under the Boardwalk. Atlantic, 1964. Single.

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