Summer holiday season is looming – is your reading-list ready? Holiday reads can be anything you like: page turning trashy romances and grisly murders, a story set in the country you are visiting – or one of those prize winners you’ve been meaning to read for ages.
From summer holiday freedom for kids, to simmering sexual tension, here are 10 books about the long summer holidays themselves.
1. The Famous Five by Enid Blyton
No summer holiday would be complete without a mystery to solve. Enid Blyton takes you back to the time when children could roam the countryside unchaperoned, investigate some ‘queer goings on’ and apprehend a gang of swarthy miscreants before high tea. Make yourself a very large picnic, washed down with ‘lashings of ginger beer’ – this is a 21 book set!
2. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
Modern day ‘helicopter’ parents take note- when asked if his children could sail off alone and camp on an island, the father just telegrams back, ‘Better drowned than duffers’. Set before the second world war, this book is the essence of summertime freedom before health and safety regulations, mobile phones and GPS.
3. The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden
Inspired by events in the author’s own life, Cecil (Cecilia) Grey narrates the story of what happened the summer she and her siblings spent alone at a hotel in the Champagne region of France, after their mother was taken ill, and admitted to hospital. A coming of age story about the awakening of sexuality, with plenty of suspense and plot twists.
4. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Set around the time of the World War I, the book is separated into three parts – the first Ramsay summer holiday in the Isle of Skye, the intervening ten years, then the return to Skye and the long delayed visit to the lighthouse promised ten years before. In lyrical language, Woolf beautifully explores childhood and child’s perceptions and desires, as well as thought processes, adult relationships, marriage, patriarchy and the transition from a Victorian to a more modern outlook.
5. Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan
Cécile is happy with her widowed father and his young mistresses until one summer he decides to remarry… Written when the author was only 18, this novella of adolescence and betrayal on the French Riviera was considered too saucy for repressed 1950s Britain. Sexual scenes were removed for the English publication, and the full translation has been published only recently.
6. The Vacationers by Emma Straub
A two-week family escape to Mallorca seems a good idea for the dysfunctional Post family – but of course they bring their emotional baggage along with the suitcases. A beach-read – but an intelligent and witty one.
7. The Accidental by Ali Smith
A middle-class English family on holiday in rural Norfolk are profoundly affected by an uninvited guest, Amber. The narrative tells the same story from different, overlapping perspectives, narratives and narrators fragmenting, blending and breaking down. It’s exhilarating, funny, confusing at times, but above all wonderfully written from the winner of 2015 Bailey’s Womens’ Prize for Fiction (for her book How to Be Both.)
8. The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish
A hot summer in London – a new Lido opening – and a teacher with an unreasonably long holiday. What could possibly go wrong? Making friends with a glamorous actress, Natalie is swept up in a whirl of parties and poolside frolics. But there are dark undercurrents from her past, threatening to emerge.
9. Indiscretion by Charles Dubow
Likened to a modern day The Great Gatsby, this book tells the tale of an American golden couple, Maddy and Harry, who are spending their summer at The Hamptons drinking martinis with their friends. It all seems perfect – until the arrival of Claire. The breakdown of their marriage is narrated by an outsider looking in, wealthy lawyer Walter, who has been in love with Maddy for years.
10. August by Gerard Woodward
August is the first trilogy of novels loosely based on the author’s own family and childhood, Covering fifteen years of camping trips at the same Welsh farm, Woodward tracks the joy and pain as the family changes over time.
Have you got any recommendations for summer reading? Do let us know!
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