Now that our Summer has disappeared (we know, we know, it’s coming back next week), we thought we’d return to our ‘five books’ features, picking books set over a fateful summer like our July pick, The Summer of Secrets by Sarah Jasmon. So – here we go. As ever, let us know your suggestions!
1. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
The novel (well, novella) that scandalised the French in the 1950’s, this is the story of over-indulged and highly sensual Cécile, who sets out over the course of a hot summer in the south of France to unseat her father’s mistress. Think sailing, beaches and casinos, high fashion and low morals.
2. The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan
No hot air balloons and beautiful beaches here – The Cement Garden was the gritty first novel of McEwan’s, about some children whose father dies, followed swiftly by an odd and terribly disturbing summer (it’s hard to know how much to give away). Fourteen year old Jack is our narrator, his distinctly normal voice at odds with the behaviour of him and his three siblings…
3. The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley
Famous for its first line (‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there), The Go-Between is a novel of loss of innocence, and an introduction to the world of adult lust, love and illicit behaviour. Young Leo, staying with a friend over summer, is recruited as the messenger between a farmer, Ted, and Marian, the beautiful young woman living in the hall. His awakening comes as he is pulled deeper into their romance – with, of course, a final, superbly crafted finale. Glorious writing.
4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
There was a debate as to whether we should put Tender is the Night instead, but you can’t do a list of summer books without including The Great Gatsby. Another novella, this is the story of Jay Gatsby, the most skilful of party givers and long time admirer of Daisy Buchanan. Set in the Jazz Age, this glitzy love story (or is it?) is set over just a few days on Long Island. You’ll be transported.
5. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Quite a departure from the previous, this is an American YA story, set over a summer (with flashbacks) on Beechwood Island. The characters – predominantly a group of teenagers – are from complicated homes, and this complex family background is all too present on their summer holiday, surrounded as they are by sparring parents, grandparents and aunts. The four teenagers – the Liars – become grouped together in the intense way that only teenagers can, but the twist at the end of the novel will damage their bond irrevocably. A close, hot, clever novel.