My Summer Reading List: Books I've loved (hmmm and Books still Waiting...)

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

If you ask me, every season is a reason to have a pile of books to chomp your way through. Why wait until the summer for that slothlike moment of a languid position, with a cocktail in hand around a pool on a sun lounger. Or better still horizontal on a beach towel, with the lapping waves of the Med washing up onto the golden sandy beach, with a book tilted away from the sun, whilst your body turns a honey bronze brown and you fall into the imagination of a well-told tale.

OK, not a bad season to read in, I grant you but we always seem to have those lists from friends on Facebook with; 'Listen, guys, these are my reads for the summer,' and everyone trots out and buys them to read them too, whilst languishing in the sun on some far off beach away from the hustle and bustle of life. I have to say I've never bought a book from that 'Facebooker' who promotes his or her list, simply because to coin a title from a brilliant play "A Man for All Seasons' - 'A Book for All Seasons.' I have to admit I've still yet to read 'Girl on the Train' after the excitement is over and I can just read it, without the 'oooh it's not like the film,' or 'I so knew it was him....didn't you, Molly-May?''

I'll often read a book years later when it's forgotten about and it becomes a novel for me without all the excitement. I'll also read a book twice and I'll love it as much as the first time if not more. I'll even cry in public when I read a book. I remember sitting on the Hammersmith and City line and coming back from work and I was reading 'Marley and Me', I didn't have children then but I did have a dog. The tears were streaming down my face as the couple in the story were losing their hound. Yet a tube full of people unphased me and the emotions stirred up inside me just came out, I was a blubbering wreck. When a book does that and you don't care where you are, then you've fallen into the pages of brilliant story-telling.

As a child, I remember the summer holidays especially, and that chance to pedal as quickly as possible on my small bike to the rather ugly, modern-looking building, which had 'Library' in huge great black letters above the doorway, near the very modern-looking Catholic church to find as many books as I could take out on my library card. I used to remember sifting through the books and then waiting at the counter I could barely see over as the librarian ruffled through the box of tickets; with the speed that a hamster runs around its wheel and then proceeded to stamp each book with its return date. I wanted to be a librarian at that moment just to ruffle through the tickets and stamp that stamp, it looked like the best job in the world at the age of hmmm let me see, 'childhood'.

Invariably, there would be a letter sitting on the mat for my parents notifying them of my 50p fine for overdue books. I can remember all too well, sheepishly handing in the overdue books at the end of the long summer holiday that we'd spent the best part of in France. So my stack of books would never have been read. I carried this 'overdue trait' through with me to university, although the fine was my student beer money, I was a little more careful at returning them on time! Although I remember receiving a letter from the university, stating I was still in receipt of a law book and it was a year overdue - I had at that point finished university and was on a plane to live in New York!! I had no idea where this book was and I had to buy the library a new book - Ouch! That was an expensive law book, but my lesson was learned, I never joined a library again!

If I'm asked of my favourite author or genre, it would be without a doubt the master of espionage story-telling Frederick Forsyth. His books will always be in my list of books to read although I need to wait patiently for his next one, if they'll be a next, I do hope so. I often surprise people with that one, I think they expect me to say some 'Chick - lit' but I shy away from that, it's just not my cup of tea. I've read every one of his novels and have loved them all. The first one I ever read was 'The Fourth Protocol'. I was living in Paris at the time and teaching English in a language school, in fact over those three years I read most of his novels in Paris.

I can remember as I passed through each metro station from Montparnasse to my final destination of Pont de Sèvres to get to work, I sat wincing in my seat as I read how the KGB would pull a nail from the English spy's finger to make him talk, the torture that was inflicted was enough to curl your toes. Yet I read on. It seems odd that a young girl in her twenties could read this kind of story and not be put off by the graphic torture to the secret agents or mercenaries. Then, the perfect novel whilst in Paris was the Day of Jackal, every Boulevard, every Avenue I'd look for the dropbox where the information would be left by the agent. That's the magic of finding the right book. The city that's written about, becomes real in a story and in your mind. I can remember falling totally in love with the mercenary in 'The Dogs of War.' This summer's read in lockdown was 'The Fox', it's waited patiently to be read for two years, given as a birthday present and hot off the press, and oh my it didn't disappoint.

Among my other reads, I have a few more to chomp my way through. 'Mothership' by Francesca Segal was given to me as a book I'd love because I knew the experience, I think.

I began to read it and by page three I began to cry. It was an emotional wrench on my heart. Written with a softening eloquence and unrivalled passion, it lifts you with comedic moments, that I smiled at inwardly and outwardly as I remember exactly those days, the highs and the lows. The cheerfulness of the nurses and their upbeat positivity. The brilliance of the consultants and your awe in their precise, careful, and compassionate work. The need to produce and express milk at an abnormal rate. Your heart breaks time and time again when an intrusive beeping sound triggers out of time and lights flash and nurses run to an incubator. I remember it well, the intensive care soundtrack of beeping, crying, screens flashing, monitors, tubes, and the deafening sound of hope and fear all wrapped up in one.

It's a true memoir of motherhood in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care) with premature twins it's raw and poignant. All the emotions of a new mother and her journey beginning in a sterile surround and hoping that her babies would pull through. It is a book I will need to go back to, as for me it was too much to read, not because I felt sorry for the woman, but simply because I understood that woman, that mother, that fear, that pain, that hope. I was that mother too. I have never read a book where I felt every page was like looking in the mirror. It was profoundly moving and every description she gave I didn't need to picture or imagine, I knew it. Sometimes I'd smile at the humour but most times I cried. I knew every word she wrote, I felt every word she wrote, and for me, I wasn't in the right place to read it. Lockdown summer wasn't for this book or me.

It required a peaceful moment, not a house full of noise and children. It tugged on me emotionally and it's pretty hard to read a page when your eyes are full of tears, you begin to see double! She had told the story of my life and the days and weeks spent in NICU with my new babies. She was walking in my shoes. 'Mothership' will move a season or two. I will read it to the end, but my timing is for me rather than the season's read.

The novel I am reading at the moment is 'Love in the Time of Cholera' by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. Why? Probably because the person who was reading it at the time had an eclectic style of books they had read and I rather liked it. I think when a person shares the books they have read or are reading there is always a simple connection, whether it's a friend, or that somebody who sits opposite you on a train, a social media book club reader, or even quite simply that someone you randomly talked to in the height of the lockdown queue for your weekly shop, and they pull out a book to while away the time. I love that somebody who has a book to pass away the lockdown boredom of queuing. But 'Love in the Time of Cholera' might have to go into the pile of '(hmmm and Books still Waiting...)' Oh man, I am struggling with it, not because I'm emotionally connected like I was with 'Mothership' but simply because I can't connect. I just don't get the writing style or the story or even the author.

I think I'm struggling with the period it's written in and its setting. There is no clear indication of the place other than it's vibrant and potentially Colombia. The title depicts a truly infectious disease or is it cleverly written about the death of a relationship, a suicide for fear of becoming old. Who knows and I'm not about to find out. For me, a novel should grab you from the first sentence - (I'm sure many will disagree with me here). I feel you should want to turn the page, instantly. I've never read a book where I give up. I hate giving up on a book, it seems such a waste but with this one, I don't have the stamina to persevere. I feel a little sad by this prospect as the title is one that I probably fell in love with. I'm still in that feeling too, so I wish the book had given me the feeling I had when I heard the title for the first time and then when I read the synopsis. I so want to fall in love with the book and its storytelling. But at the moment it's scuttled sorrowfully back to the waiting list.

'The Lying Game' by Ruth Ware was another summer read. I loved this book for the simple psychological drama it brings. I finished it only yesterday and I did find it hard to put down. Although I had to as I have my own novel to complete. That said an hour in bed before my head hit the pillow was given to this novel. I loved it! I need to search out a few more by this author.

And finally, I'll leave you with 'Where the Crawdads Sing' by Delia Owens, I'm just about to begin I'll have to let you know. As the month now is September, I'm falling hopelessly out of my summer read list and edging into another season. You see...A Book for All Seasons.....

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