Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Five Perfect Summer Reads

As it is almost the middle of July and with that, it is time to hit the beach (or at least enjoy the sunshine in the park), bookshops everywhere put old classics behind, and push light-hearted summer reads to the front. To be honest, I have to agree that when you are relaxing in the boiling weather outside, reading the likes of Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Dante’s Divine Comedy might be a bit overwhelming.  However, that does not mean you should completely abandon your better judgement and jump into a poorly written book, sporting a glittery-colourful cover (and usually exclusively targeting women, promising them the ultimate romantic story of a cute but shy girl running into the perfect, yet grumpy, man, while she is having a coffee in her favourite charming café).
Fear not, here are five light, yet well-written novels that you can enjoy during your summer vacation.

For the ones who want something short but meaningful:
1.     Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

This little novel, written in 1958, is most well-known for its film adaptation (personally, I think one of the best book adaptations). Audrey Hepburn is the perfect Holly Golightly, combining in her performance girly charm and delightful absent mindedness, making us believe she is Holly. However, to fully appreciate this effect you definitely need to read the book. Truman Capote is a literary genius and Breakfast at Tiffany’s is no exception – offering quite strange and intriguing characters, the book is as fast read as it is fast paced. It never drags, it never goes off in long descriptive narratives, yet it is as alluring as Miss Golightly, and being such a short novel – it inevitably leaves you wanting for more. Also, if you have already seen the film, you will be interested to see how different the original story is. Really, you have no idea what the book is all about just yet, and sure as hell I am not going to spoil it.

For the ones who want to travel by a book:
2.     A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

… For summer reads can be written by Hemingway, too. A Moveable Feast is for the days when you want to imagine you are in Paris in the twenties and you can casually run into Hemingway, or Fitzgerald, or Pound, at some of their favourite cafés, up in Montmartre or down in the Latin Quarters. A book full of brilliant quotes, for Hemingway had quite a brilliant way with words: “We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.” It is the simple stuff that made his style – long sentences are a must, but no one writes them quite as Hemingway did, and his style is refreshing, and it is warm, and captivating, and it makes you want to keep reading. Anyway, if you are interested in Scott Fitzgerald’s manhood, or the saucy lives of the famous artists of the time, this one is a must.

For the ones who want to stick to period classics:
3.     Emma by Jane Austen

If you want to stick to the classics, Emma (or any other Austen novel for that matter) should be the perfect choice. England in the 1800s, charming women and charismatic gentlemen – this a dream for the period drama lovers. I would say that Emma comes up as the most appropriate summer read as it is one of the most light-hearted novels of the period (even by Jane Austen’s standards, whose books are quite happy-go-lucky). Indeed, compared to the Bronte sisters, or Marry Shelley, Jane Austen’s work is a bit more fitting when it comes to a read for the beach. Her well-written, sarcastic story about Emma Woodhouse is the perfect summer read. As she herself points out: "I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." Well, you can see for yourself.

For the ones who want to stick to the chick-lit:
4.     Food of Love Cookery School by Nicky Pellegrino

Something more modern, and definitely something you can actually find in the summer books section, The Food of Love Cookery School might not be a masterpiece, but is a quite enjoyable read nonetheless. I have to point out the style needs to be polished and there is nothing literary striking about the book. However, the story is just delicious! The characters are quite engaging: starting from four very different women, who have enrolled on a cooking course in Sicily, to the charming Sicilian chef who teaches them, to all the other lovely Sicilians who make an appearance on the pages: you can tell Nicky Pellegrino loves Sicily with all its food and colourful individuals! Plus, when an author knows well the place they are writing about, you can feel it from the book - Pellegrino can easily take you on a walk around the island and make you want to spend your next holiday there. A very easy read, this is the ultimate book for the working woman, who finally has found some time off to enjoy a delightful read.

The Gender neutral:
5.     The Innocent by Ian McEwan

Now, this is another modern author, but his books could easily be regarded as classics one day (ahem talking about Atonement over here). The Innocent, unlike some of the previous suggestions, can be easily alluring to both male and female readers. Situated in Berlin in 1955-56, this is the story of young Leonard Marnham, who is assigned to a British-American surveillance team. That is, he wants to escape from his ordinary life and unwanted innocence – indeed, he soon meets Maria, a beautiful German woman. As you might have guessed things are never that cheerful in McEwan’s novels and this one will not disappoint the reader seeking for drama and twists. A light-read it might not be, but an enjoyable drama for the summer evenings it sure is.  

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