Each year, we ask our Library staff to recommend some Long Vac reading. Our wonderfully eclectic and fascinating list continues with part two.
Lauren Ward, Assistant Librarian
I’ve just finished my 60th book of the year, and though I don’t tend to pick many classic ‘beach reads’, I sifted back through my list for some books that will be compelling and atmospheric, whatever the weather (since that definitely can’t be relied upon!).
Three – Valerie Perrin
The story centres on three once-inseparable friends, a local journalist, and a mysterious car dredged from a lake 30 years after it disappeared. I devoured this, skillfully translated from the original French, while on holiday recently at a pace I didn’t expect given that it’s around 550 pages. Perrin managed to blend quieter slice of life elements and excellent characterisation with building unease and plot twists relating to the trio’s pasts, while evoking small town life perfectly. It’s a compelling story of friendship, love, loss, and the distance that comes with time, and happens to be largely set in August – albeit in sunny central France.
Summerwater – Sarah Moss
Perhaps more appropriate to the weather we’ve had this summer, Summerwater is set over 24 hours in a remote Highlands cabin park where the rain is unrelenting. Cooped up inside, the residents have little else to do but watch each other, and each section is narrated from the perspective of a different character. Moss can write an internal monologue so well it’s a bit scary and the interconnected narrations build an intense atmosphere as the park seems to hold its breath, tensed for something to happen. She also has a talent for integrating social commentary subtly, similar to Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet.
Penance – Eliza Clark
One of a flurry of recent books to use meta fiction to examine our love of true crime, I found Eliza Clark’s second novel impossible to put down. Through disgraced journalist Alec Z. Carelli and his compilation of podcast transcripts, tumblr posts, interviews, historical research, and artistic interpretations, we have a ‘definitive account’ of events surrounding a crime that rocked Crow-On-Sea. But the question remains: how much is true? Full of unapologetically British small-town weirdness, niche internet culture, and cringe-inducing secondary school nostalgia, this was darkly comic and compelling. You can borrow this one from the Library, but you may have to form an orderly queue behind the team…
Sarah Arkle, Deputy Librarian
A few other things I have read and enjoyed this summer…
Pearl – Sian Hughes
Inspired in part by the middle-English poem from which it takes its name, Pearl is a striking novel which concerns loss, grief, and memory. The narrator, Marianne, recounts her past, trying to make sense of the day her mother went missing. The subject matter may not scream ‘summer read’ but I found the writing to be beautiful and evocative, and I really felt immersed in Marianne’s memories of her childhood. I ended up reading this all at once because I found it so difficult to put down.
Tender is the Flesh – Agustina Bazterrica
This dystopian sci-fi/horror is set in an alternative reality where animals have been wiped out to near extinction by a mysterious virus and so factory farming has turned to using humans to produce meat. Some of the imagery is quite graphic so if you’re squeamish, proceed with caution. I felt this novel grappled with questions around the ethics of meat consumption well, and was certainly a memorable read.
The Guest – Emma Cline
This novel follows Alex, a 22-year-old sex worker as she spends a few days attempting to adapt and survive in a wealthy beach community after being thrown out of the house she was staying in, and to where she hopes to be able to return. This book kept me guessing – I had the sense that something terrible might happen, or that nothing might happen at all, and I felt very compelled to keep reading to find out.