In my memory, books have been always connected with all those fragrant, endless sunny Summer days. As soon as June arrived, I would store my schoolbooks on the closet, only to pile up children’s novels and short stories in my nightstand. I was probably the youngest with a library membership in the school, and guys, I was not afraid to use it.
As I grew up, my thirst for books did too. When I was a teenager, it wasn’t unusual to find me reading in a corner during the classes break. Then I went to college and graduated in English. During all those years, I would spend the extra spare time in Summer to catch-up with my list and this is a habit that has endured thus far.
But the truth is that once you become a functional adult, the chances to keep your reading rhythm decrease – work, children, household, social life… Pickup your poison.
I enjoy buring my nose in a book every evening before bedtime but sometimes I am so tired I fall asleep with the lights on (raise your hand if you are familiar with the associated frustration). Hence, the holiday season turns into the perfect period to indulge.
This year, my reading marathon started during my trip to Spain in June, and since then I am proud to say I am back to track. Partially, thanks to all those relaxing pool-side mornings I am enjoying lately. As a consequence, I thought I could share some of my latest favourite reads with you.
Before I proceed, please notice that all the selected works were written by women and that is not a coincidence: as Kamila Shamsie stated on a genius article back in 2015, gender imbalance is a reality when talking about publication or literary prizes. Examples are countless but I find this one quite enlightening: Pulitzer across the Atlantic has had no female protagonist among its 15 winning books. Beautiful, right? Surely, this is a topic that deserves an entire post but I left that for another day and decided to give you a clue of all those fantastic women writers I have been reading lately.
These are my recommendations for 2019 Summer reads.
Don’t Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
I don’t know if I have mentioned this before but I have a thing about ghost stories. Like, the kind of thing that makes you read every book and watch every movie you encounter. I am not joking when I tell you that there is a special folder on my eBook called “Books About Ghosts and Other Cool Uncanny Stuff“. Yeah, that’s me. Please, don’t unsubscribe…
But the thing is, I also love Daphne du Maurier and Rebecca is one of my absolute favourite books AND movies (seriously, how often is the movie as good as the book?) So, when this short stories collection landed in my lap, I knew it was meant to be. And it really was.
Most of the tales are set in Europe during the Summertime and tell the stories of English-American people who, one way or another, experience something unnatural during their holiday in the Mediterranean coastline. Yes, you can still smell a tiny tiny bit of colonialism there maybe, but I assure you that the tales are awesome and a Summer must.
Girls in Their Married Bliss by Edna O’Brien
Edna O’Brien is a bit like Doris Lessing and Iris Murdoch had a daughter together – in other words, her prose is astonishing. Girls in Their Married Bliss is the third part of the Country Girls trilogy but I had no problem to follow the plot, even without reading the previous episodes.
The novel goes into the story of Kate and Baba, two Irish county girls who move to Dublin in the hope of making the most of it. Splashed with loads of humor and sympathy, O’Brien explores how religiosity affects women both emotionally and sexually. If you are into meaty fiction, make yourself a favour and purchase a copy right now.
The Handmaid Tale by Margaret Atwood
Unless you have been hiding under a rock for a couple of years, there is a good chance you’ve already heard of it. The Handmaid Tale is a masterpiece which will give you all the feels (I will neither confirm nor deny that I binge-read it in the course of one day, making good use of an entire tissue pack and having to go for a late evening walk to process it all…)
However, this is not only an emotional narrative but a political one: Atwood brightly sections the innate danger to blindly follow leadership, as well as the chaos generated by fundamentalism of any sort. Dystopian fiction as its finest.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Guys, just so you know, this novel is so good this is the second time I read it (and I am quite sure it will not be the last one). Beloved is the story of a former slave called Margaret Garner who escapes and establishes herself in another state. Unfortunately, her pain is far from gone: very early in the plot, we come to know her house is haunted by an unknown but demanding revenant which will affect her daily life as well as her family’s. (You see? I was not joking about the whole ghost stories thing, was I?)
Main topics mastered by Morrison include family relationships, psychological ramifications of slavery, loss coping and manhood definition among others.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Considered a modern literature classic, the novel tells the story of Esther Greenwood, a young woman who ambitions to become a professional writer. Once she wins an internship in a fashion magazine, her dreams seem to come true but depression knocks on her door as she struggles with relationships and a vain society which will not take women seriously.
Personally, I have always considered The Bell Jar the female literature equivalent to The Catcher in the Rye – an initiatory tale with a darker and maturer tone. The style is light and smart, notwithstanding, which makes the novel a perfect pool-side lazy afternoon read.
What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations we can all benefit from?