Sarah Waters suggests some summer reading


For so many of us, summer is synonymous with sitting pool side, beach side or porch side with a good book. True book worms will have no trouble recalling vacations by what book they were sinking their teeth into at the time.

The Guardian recently rounded up a bunch of writers to pontificate upon their most memorable summer read. True to form, each writer gave not only their favorite summer book, but also reminisced about the vacation during which the read happened. It’s an interesting pairing that doesn’t always get mentioned when talking up summer reads. I’ll always associate my first trip to Mexico with Haruki Murakami’s The Wind Up Bird Chronicles, turning the final pages while watching fishing boats come in for the day.

Our girl Sarah Waters contributed to The Guardian’s summer reads list with this:

My first grown-up holiday was in 1987: My girlfriend and I had just finished our finals, and wanted to celebrate with a budget trip to somewhere sunny. By chance, we chose Dubrovnik – and it was such a glorious, memorable trip that it is still Dubrovnik’s hot stone streets and blue seas that pop into my head whenever I hear the words “summer holiday.” The book I took was a memorable one, too: John FowlesThe Magus. With its vivid Greek island setting, it was an ideal vacation read; and, at 21, I was just about the perfect age for it, for it’s a book about the awful arrogance, but also the wonderful susceptibility, of youth.

Rereading the novel recently, I was struck by its essential daftness, as well as by the deep dubiousness of its sexual politics. But I was still gripped and impressed: Fowles is a fabulous storyteller, and The Magus is brilliantly twisty and tricksy, with some really uncanny moments. It’s one of the few novels I’ve read that has made me gasp in surprise. I’d still recommend it as a fascinating read, for a holiday or for any time.

She’s not the only writer on the list to recommend The Magus, either!

Other women writers interviewed include Jennifer Egan, who recalls reading an advanced galley copy of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History while vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, and Esther Freud, who diligently tears into Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina while visiting the hotel stayed in as a child on the island of Formentera.

Whether your summer vaca will include island getaways or a lawn chair in the backyard, there are a slew of books being touted as good summer reads this season. Julie Anne Peters, the unofficial queen of lesbian YA lit, has released a new novel, She Loves You, She Loves You Not. The book begins with Alyssa, who has lost her girlfriend, her hometown, and the family she grew up with when she gets kicked out and booted across the country to live with the birth mother she’s rarely known. It takes a whole community of hard-scrabble characters to get her to live her life despite it not going the way she wanted to. And once she meets the elusive Finn, her closely guarded heart gets a run for its money.

A perfect and aptly titled summer read is Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book. The Finnish lesbian author is best known for her whimsical Moomins, a children’s series, but she penned a number of fiction stories and novels for adults as well. The Summer Book is a collection of vignettes that illustrate summer and its nature through the relationship of a young 6-year-old girl and her grandmother, living on an island on the Gulf of Finland. Their conversations range from the everyday to the philosophical, and come together to paint a beautiful portrait of one summer spent.

Top on most summer reads lists is J. Courtney Sullivan’s new novel, Maine. There’s no sapphic connection here, although Sullivan’s debut novel, Commencement, did follow a group of Smith College graduates and included a few brief scenes of lesbian-until-graduation behavior. But Sullivan is a grand storyteller, and Maine gives us a host of women who together form a dysfunctional family, all coming to spend a vacation together in Maine in the cottage house of their childhood. There’s enough drama, cocktails, secrets, and bonding to keep everyone entertained, all vacation long.

What are your summer reads this season?

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