Welcome to my Top 10 Summer Reads 2012. Competition has been fierce and the list could have been five times longer, but I hope my selection has something to suit all tastes: from literary to light, a cracking thriller, different periods in history and a wide range of settings from Australia to Canada and many places in between. I’ve read most of them already and will be reviewing my favourites (have included links to the two reviews already written). Enjoy your summer reading, whether at home or on your travels!
To the casual outsider, Hill Farm is a rural idyll and the perfect retreat from urban life. Yet beneath the tranquil surface lie discontent, desire and death-watch beetles. Farmer Hayes loves the land – but hates farming. His neglected wife Isabel adores her three children, but is temperamentally unsuited to life as a wife and mother. The Smith sisters have not spoken to one another for forty years, farm-hand Mikey dabbles in pyromania, while neighbour Mr Payne has fled the city, only to find a greater threat to his karma in the hedgerows of Middle England. And after one incendiary summer, all of their lives will be different…
Clarissa is almost seventeen when the spell of her childhood is broken. It is 1914, the beginning of a blissful, golden summer – and the end of an era. Deyning Park is in its heyday, the large country house filled with the laughter and excitement of privileged youth preparing for a weekend party. When Clarissa meets Tom Cuthbert, home from university and staying with his mother, the housekeeper, she is dazzled. Tom is handsome and enigmatic; he is also an outsider. As Tom and Clarissa’s friendship deepens, the wider landscape of political life around them is changing, and another story unfolds: they are not the only people in love. Soon the world – and all that they know – is rocked by a war that changes their lives for ever.
It is 1923 and Evangeline English, keen lady cyclist, arrives with her sister Lizzie at the ancient Silk Route city of Kashgar to help establish a Christian mission. Lizzie is in thrall to their forceful and unyielding leader Millicent, but Eva’s motivations for leaving her bourgeois life back at home are less clear-cut. As they attempt to navigate their new home and are met with resistance and calamity, Eva commences work on her book, A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar…In present-day London another story is beginning. Frieda, a young woman adrift in her own life, opens her front door one night to find a man sleeping on the landing. The two wanderers begin an unlikely friendship as their worlds collide, and they embark on a journey that is as great, and as unexpected, as Eva’s.
Tom Sherbourne, released from the horrors of the First World War, is now a lighthouse keeper, cocooned on a remote island with his young wife Isabel, who is content in everything but her failure to have a child. One April morning, a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man – and a crying baby. Safe from the real world, Tom and Isabel break the rules and follow their hearts. It is a decision with devastating consequences.
To Steph, working as a bar hostess in Japan sounds too good to be true. Friends say she can earn a fortune simply by flirting with drunk businessmen, and there’s no sex involved. Old friends, Julia and Annabel, are earning piles of cash in Tokyo and say hostessing is perfectly safe. But once in Japan, Steph realises Julia is a shadow of her former self and Annabel has disappeared. As Steph searches for her missing friend, she is lured into gritty, glamorous Roppongi – an exotic world of sex, modern-day geishas and easy money. Steph soon realises she must discover what’s happened to Annabel, or risk selling a part of herself she’ll never get back. Guest Author – Susanna Quinn on The Secrets of Plotting a Novel
Kate Moore is an expat mum, newly transplanted from Washington D.C. In the cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg, her days are filled with play dates and coffee mornings, her weekends spent in Paris or skiing in the Alps. Kate is also guarding a secret – one so momentous it could destroy her neat little expat life – and she suspects that another American couple are not who they claim to be; plus her husband is acting suspiciously. As she travels around Europe, she finds herself looking over her shoulder, terrified her past is catching up with her. As Kate begins to dig, to uncover the secrets of those around her, she finds herself buried in layers of deceit so thick they threaten her family, her marriage and her life.
In 1956, the family of Dell Parsons and his twin sister came to a stop in Great Falls, Montana, the way many military families did following the war. It was more bad instincts and bad luck that their parents decided to rob the bank. In the days following the arrest, Dell is saved by a family friend before the authorities think to arrive. Driving across the Montana border into Saskatchewan his life hurtles towards the unknown, towards a hotel in a deserted town, towards the violent and enigmatic American Arthur Remlinger, and towards Canada itself – a landscape of rescue and abandonment. But as Dell discovers, in this new world of secrets and upheaval, he is not the only one whose own past lies on the other side of a border. Book Review – Canada by Richard Ford
The Kelleher clan’s beachfront holiday house creaks under a weight of secrets. It’s a place where cocktails follow morning mass, children eavesdrop, and ancient grudges fester. One summer, three generations of Kelleher women descend on the shore. Kathleen, finally sober, hoped never to set foot there again. Maggie, pregnant, has left her useless boyfriend. Ann-Marie, bound to the family by marriage, fantasizes about an extra-marital affair. In the middle of all this is matriarch Alice, who drinks to forget her failings as a parent and the events of a single night, decades before.
Outside London behind a stone wall stands Lake House, a private asylum for genteel women of a delicate nature. In the winter of 1859, recently-married Anna Palmer becomes its newest arrival, tricked by her husband into leaving home, incarcerated against her will and declared hysterical and unhinged. With no doubts as to her sanity, Anna is convinced that she will be released as soon as she can tell her story. But Anna learns that liberty will not come easily. The longer she remains at Lake House, the more she realises that — like the ethereal bridge over the asylum’s lake — nothing is as it appears. She begins to experience strange visions and memories that may lead her to the truth about her past, herself, and to freedom – or lead her so far into the recesses of her mind that she may never escape. Guest Author – Wendy Wallace on Being a Debut Author
When artist Maddie inherits Trevenen, a house in Cornwall, shortly after the death of her husband, she hopes it will be the fresh start she and her step-daughter Hannah desperately need. As she discovers the stories of generations of women who’ve lived there before, Maddie begins to feel her life is somehow intertwined within its walls. Still struggling with her grief and battling with Hannah, Maddie faces having to sell Trevenen, just as the house starts to reveals secrets that have lain hidden for generations.
Which titles appeal to you? Do you have any suggestions you’d like to add?
*AUGUST UPDATE – YET MORE HOT SUMMER READS!*
As I’ve read my Top 10 already, here’s My Poolside TBR List 2012 – another 6 great titles, including 3 debuts and one from the Booker longlist – all but one are recent releases.