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!
THAT SUMMER AT HILL FARM by Miranda France (Vintage)
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…
THE LAST SUMMER by Judith Kinghorn (Headline Review)
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.
Book Review – The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn
A LADY CYCLIST’S GUIDE TO KASHGAR by Suzanne Joinson (Bloomsbury)
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.
Guest Author – Suzanne Joinson on the Challenges facing New Writers
THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS by M L Stedman (Transworld)
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.
Book Review – The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman
GLASS GEISHAS by Susanna Quinn (Hodder Paperbacks)
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
THE EXPATS by Chris Pavone (Faber & Faber Crime)
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.
CANADA by Richard Ford (Bloomsbury)
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
MAINE by Courtney Sullivan (Atlantic)
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.
THE PAINTED BRIDGE by Wendy Wallace (Simon & Schuster)
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
THE CORNISH HOUSE by Liz Fenwick (Orion)
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.
Hi Isabel, what a useful post, love the look of The Light Between Oceans (great title), The Cornish House and The Last Summer. Might just treat myself to these 🙂
Glad you liked the list Louise, you’re in for a treat with those! Hope to be talking about your book at some point.
Well, that would be marvellous, but it’s still a dream away Isabel! Hope your writing is coming on a treat?
Hi Isabel, and thanks for helping me add to my reading list this summer. I’m particularly interested in Maine, The Light Between Oceans, and The Expats (as an expat myself, this last one appeals, obviously!). And I already had Glass Geishas on my list. I think you delivered what you hoped: a varied list with something that should appeal to almost everyone. And I have to put in a plug for The Last Summer – a great read for summer, or anytime.
Hi Kristin, so glad you found a few with ‘Ooh!’ factor! Expats is one of the ones I haven’t yet read and I’m looking forward to it – it should be especially interesting for you. Am just coming to the end of Maine – the characters and issues are so unbelievably recognisable for me coming from a big Irish Catholic family on my mum’s side (she’s the eldest of seven children!) but a great story for anyone.
Cheers, Isabel. Your lists are always so bloody useful. It’s always a bunch of stuff I’ve never heard of and can look in to.
How great to hear that Cariad, that’s exactly the aim. I do keep my ear to the ground and always happy to spread the word.
Oh, and how did I forget The Cornish House – releases next week.
Oooh –The Expats sounds intriguing. Totally adding that too my TBR! 🙂
Sounds great, doesn’t it? I spent the most miserable year of my life as a teaching assistant in a godforsaken German town near Luxembourg so I became very familiar with the airport – a shed in a field, basically!
How wonderful to be included in the list!!!
Liz, the story of your path to publication (as told by Carole Blake at the W&A Conference) is an inspiration to the rest of us. Congratulations!
Isabel, what a lovely surprise on a grey, disheartening day! Thank you so much. Some great recommendations here to add to my own summer reading too – Miranda.
Miranda, I grew up in the country too and That Summer At Hill Farm was deliciously funny viewed from the safety of my urban existence. I love the way you write and my only complaint would be I wish the novel was longer!
Great list! I can’t wait to check them all out- especially Glass Geisha. One that I would suggest is “SportsFan Chronicles” by Kurt Weichert. It is the first in a series of fictional comedies- a fun, light, entertaining book for a good summer read!
Hi Liz, glad you found it of interest. Glass Geishas has a deceptively light tone but I was really drawn in – as in horribly fascinated, and shocked – by the seedy underworld of the sex industry in Tokyo. Thanks for that recommendation too.