Ah, nothing brings back the school days more than the phrase Summer Reading. I remember having to read a slew of books and take notes on them all before the school year began. I couldn’t stand it. Not the books, I’ve always loved reading, but the being forced part of the equation. Of course looking back on it, they made me read some great books: Brothers Karamazov, Dandelion Wine, even Dune.
This summer, I’ve been trying to find more time to read and now that my buying season appointments are at an end, I’ll hopefully have more time to blog.
So far this summer, I’ve read Charity Girl by local author Michael Lowenthal (and not due out until next January). Did you know that during WWI, the government quarantined and incarcerated young women who were thought to have venereal diseases? And they did this in the Boston area! Charity Girl is the story of 17 year old Frieda Mintz, a bundle wrapper at Jordan Marsh. She’s fled her horrible home and tries to set up a life for herself, which isn’t easy on her pay. She makes the mistake of spending a night with a soldier and gets sent to a makeshift quarantine camp. Besides being a historical novel, Lowenthal infuses Frieda with enough character to make you want to survive her experiences.
I jumped for joy when I got my hands on a copy of William Boyd’s upcoming novel Restless at BEA in May—Any Human Heart is one of my favorite books. I must say that I was disappointed with this book. Boyd, like Banville, takes a leap into the espionage genre with Restless. In the summer of 1976, Sally Gilmartin thinks someone is trying to kill her. She finally tells her daughter Ruth, a young single mother, her true history. Sally is really Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian emigre recruited by the British Secret Service during WWII after her much beloved older brother’s murder (also a spy). Going back and forth between present day and the war, the story details Eva’s secret history as well as why someone might be trying to kill her now. The story, while interesting, lacked the nuances of Boyd’s previous works.
Chimamanda Adichie’s new novel Half of a Yellow Sun, coming from Knopf in September, more than lives up to her previous book Purple Hibiscus (one of the few books to make me cry). Her new book follows several characters during Biafra’s struggle to establish independence from Nigeria in the 1960’s. Thirteen year old Ugwu works as a houseboy for a revolutionary university professor Odenigbo. Olanna, the professor’s mistress and later his wife, has abandoned her more luxurious life in Lagos to live with her lover in a small town. Her estranged twin sister Kainene takes up as her lover an English author Richard. The vivid writing deftly combines the political and the personal in this provocative novel. This is definitely a book to watch out for in the Fall.
Right now I am enjoying Elizabeth Gilbert’s earlier book The Last American Man. I am also excited about reading Richard Power’s upcoming novel The Echo Maker coming from FSG in October. Also Da Chen’s first novel Brothers is high on my list as well as Them by Francine du Plessix Gray.
What are you reading this summer? Read anything good or do you have any suggestions?