Now that summer is here (in the northern hemisphere, anyway), what is the most “summery” book you can think of? The one that captures the essence of summer? (I’m not asking for you to list your ideal “beach reading,” you understand, but the book that you can read at any time of year but that evokes “summer.”)
I'll answer this way.
If summer is heat then I'll douse myself with:
Jamie O'Neill's At Swim Two Boys is a rich novel, part love story, part history of the Irish rebellion of 1916 and deeply steeped in the Irish tradition of letters. It's Oscar Wilde meets James Joyce. A real stunner.
Charles Arrowby of Irish Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea is one of the most impossibly embarrassing central characters you will ever meet in a novel. This is a hilarious dramatic romp.
The Waves is liquid gold. It has the long, wandery rhythm of a childhood summer summer day, filled with warmth and mystery. Its structure also follows the path of the sun on one complete day.
If summer includes the anniversary of American independence then I'll tuck into:
David McCullough has written a really masterful and readable biography of John Adams, but if biography is not your speed for summer, dip into the letters between John and Abigail Adams, one of the most beautiful correspondences ever. A lesson in love and history.
If summer is escape then I'll give myself one comic one and one serious one:
In To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis has written an irresistible story that is part science fiction, part screwball comedy, with a little wartime romance thrown in. Lots of fun.
I haven't thought of Willa Cather's The Song of the Lark for a long time, but this question brought it instantly to mind without my knowing why. In it Thea Kronberg find that her personal life can no longer live up to the richness of her artistic life, so she escapes there more and more. Cather herself calls the novel a reverse The Portrait of Dorian Grey.
Enjoy the pleasures of summer reading!