Summer Reading Recommendations (the strawberries & cream edit)
24th July 2013
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You will need your sunglasses with wrap around sides -otherwise the light gets in and makes your eyes water, and if you have any make-up or sunscreen on that's painful! You need a comfy seat / sunbed / rug & pillow on the grass ... maybe you're going all Hollywood and floating on a lilo in a turqouise pool as you read ... if so, I suspect you are in the minority!! Anyhoo summer is THE best time to read, you can chill almost anywhere with a book, take it in your bag & read on your lunch break, MOST CERTAINLY read on the bus or train [but never try to read when you are driving your car!] And I am not discriminating against you e- readers either ... a good book IS A GOOD BOOK! No matter what format for reading you choose.

Girl Friday by Jane Green

This is probably the most typical, girly 'holiday read' of all those I've devoured in the last 3 weeks. It is set in America, small town Conneticut. It revolves around a central character who has recently got divorced and downsized her life, becoming a single mom and looking for work. Her friends are:

  • a mother who lives a high octane life with a financier husband, children at private school, a nanny and start-up business of her own,
  • a newcomer to the area who seems to be on the 'californian' trail to enlightenment, running a centre for alternative therapies and yoga/fitness regimes
  • and a lovely elderly neighbour,sharp as a tack, who gets our heroine her job as girl friday to a very famous, successful thriller writer who is a known recluse.

Throw into the mix a mystery surrounding the death of the writer's wife back in the 70s, an abusive ex-husband in one lady's past, a long-lost relative in another's and a financial crash and there's your plot: a hot pot of tricky situations which the characters must deal with. Having been reading thrillers recently, I did feel that some of the tension was only hinted at before a solution was found, but perhaps that is the 'escapism' secret to a good holiday read.

My Mad Fat Teenage Diary by Rae Earl

What a great book!! I was raving about the E4 series made from this book earlier this year, but I really found another layer of interest in the novel. Rae has obviously edited the diaries she wrote when she was a 17 year old obsessed with boys and body issues, back in the 80s. She wanted to make them a fun read, she did not want to fall out with or upset the people who were in her life then (and some still are) but this does not mean she hasn't dealt with difficult issues. Her relationship with her mother is terrible - but for lots of teenage girls that's a fact of life. She has a friend who seems to use Rae as her side-kick, to make herself look prettier, thinner, more fun (bet lots of us have experienced that) and though boys seem to like Rae, it's as a friend rather than girlfriend material.

Poor Rae - but she has her love of music, her poetry and of course her diary to let off steam and to try to make sense of the dramas in her life. She suffers mental health issues, and these have not been addressed successfully by the health authorities, as Rae is masking them quite successfully. Also - a lot like Adrian Mole in his famous diaries - you have to read between the lines of Rae's narration to see what the picture really is.
This book contains a young person's voice which needs to be heard - Rae does for plus sized girls and teens with mental health issues what Tracey Beaker did for unhappy children and those in care homes - she shines a light in the dark corners. Read it for yourself and see another viewpoint. Try reading this while simultaneously listening to an 80s playlist - it will really 'put you in the moment' .

One Day in May by Catherine Alliott

This book is such a lovely escape, it's the perfect combination of frothy chick lit (which makes me feel all summery, even if I'm not reading it by a beach or pool!) and real life issues - war torn countries, growing old (& up) gracefully, public image and even politicians! I myself have dabbled - and still do - in interior design & decor, so I loved getting into the heroine's 'shoes' and walking about in them ... risk free!

The Debutante by Kathleen Tessaro

If you love the 'flapper' era and glamour and mystery and you know that love & attraction has a dark side - I highly recommend you put this book on your list. I was on the underground when I saw a woman reading this book - what caught my attention was that she was almost at the end of it and I was thinking what a delicious moment that is - the culmination of a story that has kept you rapt whilst it unfolds - then I found myself reading the blurb on the back and was so intrigued that I wanted to read it. At the library a week later [please everyone keep using libraries, so that this wonderful resource continues to get funding] & there it was on the shelf ... fate wanted me to borrow it!

The book is, in many ways like a russian doll - one segment hidden within another, within another - but in other ways the action in present echoes behaviour of the past - let me try to explain. At first there are 3 central characters - Cate Albion, a young artist just returned from NewYork with a bit of a mystery surrounding her, is she home to "lick her wounds" or is she running away from something or someone? Her aunt - Rachael has a thriving antiques business which she runs with Jack, a younger colleague, now that she is a widow. Jack seems to be a self-elected loner, but when he is instructed by Rachael to drive down to Devon to catalogue the contents of a genteel palladian mansion with Cate - they find that they have a crackling attraction to one another, which they each find unsettling for different reasons.

Endsleigh house - this once grand home from a long dead era - is almost a central character in its own right! It held secrets in the past and is still holding them now as Cate gains entry to a locked and long-forgotten room and finds a box of mementos secreted behind a row of untouched children's books. The mystery deepens with the information that the deceased owner of the house was one of the famous Blythe sisters - who were glamorous and notorious for their wild parties and lavish well-connected lifestyles between the wars - and Cate sets out to discover more about the younger Blythe sister who went missing and her final fate was never discovered.

The story of the Blythe sisters is told in a series of letters from the youngest sister - who known as Baby- to her older sister. The language is pitch perfect and it provides a fingernail sketch of coming out into society as debutante - Baby blazes a trail which is sometimes "too much" for even her to handle.

The stories of the other 3 characters are told in a series of flashbacks and discoveries, there is a theme of infidelity and people coming to terms with the 'dark side' of their nature. The plot gives delicious glimpses of the past - the clothes, the decadence, the political machinations - which show it was not all dances and tea parties! The Victoria and Albert museum, the National Portrait Gallery and Tiffany & Co are all utilised to assist Cate in unravelling the strands of the mystery of the shoe box she has found. In the link below the author Kathleen Tessaro explains that she too was given a shoe box full of items to assist her in compiling her intriguing plot.

As I read this book I was strongly reminded of Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella - a more frothy, lightweight book for sure, but one with a similar socialite, 20's debutante as the central character, guiding the heroine with her insights and moral code from another era, and a hidden secret of its own which is pivotal to the plot.



About the Author

Arabella L

Member since: 19th July 2013

Hello my name is Bella -

I've lived in and around Hertford most of my life. I I started to write a blog in 2012 to put my thoughts and opinions out there regarding what I read & enjoy watching. If any...

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