Celebrating Summer

The June solstice marks the beginning of summer. June 21st is the first day of summer and the day on which the Northern Hemisphere experiences the longest period of daylight. What a welcome relief it will be to bask in the warm sunshine after what has been a long, damp spring. Summer is finally here and along with all the trappings of summer comes summer reading! As you may be aware from my prior blog, Under the Boardwalk, I do not like the term beach reads with its connotations of poorly written books with one dimensional characters and contrived plot lines. Of course, I do not want you, or me, to spend our summer poring over literary tomes. But, rather than reading mere fluff, I prefer reading, and recommending, entertaining books that are well-written. With that in mind, here are some summer-themed books that you will breeze through and enjoy thoroughly!
Summer Reading

Library Journal hails Hilma Wolitzer’s Summer Reading as "thinking reader’s beach book." I could not agree more. It is a well told story about three different women and how they ultimately learn to resolve the various problems in their lives. Set in the Hamptons, the story involves the members of a book group called the Page Turners. The group’s reading list is scholarly and includes Anthony Trollope, Gustav Flaubert and Gabriel García Márquez. The mediator of the book group is a retired bookish professor who sincerely believes that books and literature can teach us life-lessons and help us to better understand our lives. And, given the happy ending, she is far from wrong.

Forever Summer
"Engaging and not too fluffy" by Kirkus Reviews standards, which are very high indeed, The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner is a story about a woman who seems to have it all: a great job and a happy and fulfilling personal life—until it all comes crashing down. Due to an error in judgment, she loses both her job and her fiancé, finds out that her parents are in the midst of a divorce, discovers a half-sister she never knew existed, and learns that her father is not her biological father. Yes, it is a lot to cope with and process, and our heroine, along with her mother and half-sister, travels to her grandmother’s beachfront guest house in Cape Cod where she learns to successfully navigate her place in the family. A fast read with an interesting story line and well-imagined characters.
That Summer; Summer People
That Summer by Lauren Willig tells the story of two women: unemployed, Julia Conley who lives in New York but goes to England upon discovering that she has inherited an old house there; and Imogen who lived in that house 160 years ago. This book has a little bit of everything: romance, murder, mystery and art-history. The story goes back and forth, from 1849 to 2009 and Willig weaves a captivating tale. If you like puzzles then this book is a must-read for you.

Set in Nantucket, Summer People by Elin Hilderbrand has enough twists and turns - secrets, lies and betrayals - making it appropriate for a hot summer read. Grief-stricken after the sudden death of her lawyer husband, Beth decides to maintain their summer tradition of going to Nantucket with her twins, Winnie and Garrett. Beth also invites her husband’s client’s son to stay with them. Three teenagers, a widow and an old flame who happens to turn up at the scene—yes, it gets complicated, but makes for a fun summer read.
Summer Secrets; Summer Firefly; Summer
Nantucket is also the setting for Jane Green’s Summer Secrets. Catherine Coombs, who appears to have a charmed life, spends a great deal of her time trying to hide the fact that she has a problem with alcohol. Further adding to her woes, Catherine learns that the man she thought was her father was not her biological father. After one too many blackouts, Catherine decides to join Alcoholics Anonymous where she meets a charming man and falls in love. Catherine then decides to go to Nantucket to meet her biological father. Despite her good intentions, Catherine’s life spirals downhill as she just cannot stay sober. Green handles the subject of alcoholism deftly and honestly in her portrayal of Catherine, who finally commits to staying sober and making amends for her past egregious behavior.

Two older books that I recommend highly are Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy and Summer by Edith Wharton.

I am a fan of Maeve Binchy and I have read all of her books. A gifted storyteller, Binchy wrote about the everyday drama that exists in most families, but it was her flair for storytelling that made her books such absorbing reads. Firefly Summer is set in Ireland, 1962, and tells the story of Kate Ryan and her husband, John who own a pub. Their life seems to be magical until one day an American millionaire comes to town and turns their life upside down. By turns lyrical and magical, it is a pleasure to read.

Published in 1917, Summer created quite a sensation due to its subject matter. Set in New England, Summer is a story of 19 year old Charity who has a summer love affair with a visiting architect who then abandons her. It is left to Charity to deal with the consequences of her brief dalliance. I found this book much more readable than any of Wharton’s other books but it is just as well-written as it explores the societal mores of the time that bound women into strictly defined roles.

Whether at the beach, or nodding off on the porch swing, summer seems to be the perfect time to catch up on reading. And what could be a better way to celebrate summer than to read books where everything interesting happens during summer?

—Rina B.

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