Cultural Wednesday’s Summer Books 2019

One of the things that I like most about the prospect of a holiday is the luxury of time to read. The best part of packing is thinking about which books to take with me. So without further ado here are Cultural Wednesday’s Summer Books 2019 recommendations.

Cut Out Girl by Bart van Es

We’ve all heard the story of Anne Frank, this is the story of a different Dutch Jewish schoolgirl. This time Lien survived. Surviving the Holocaust and being unmarked by the Holocaust are two totally different things. Lien’s story is told by Bart van Es whose family had a connection to Lien. Along the way learn about the van Es family too. This is a profoundly moving book and once which forces you to think about how you would act in such circumstances and to hope that such divisions never split Europe ever again.

The Poor Relation by Susanna Bavin

Susanna Bavin writes sagas based in and around her native Manchester. The Poor Relation is set just before the First World War and has Mary as our heroine. Mary is bright girl but is constricted both by societies expectation of her and by her families. As with all The Deserter’s Daughter and A Respectable Woman, Susanna’s previous books I just had to keep turning the pages just to find out what happened next.

Love is Blind by William Boyd

William Boyd is one of my favourite authors, this time he has come up with the tale of Victorian Scottish piano tuner. We get a love affair that rages in Paris, the sun soaked south of France, wintery St Petersburg and finally an island in the Indian Ocean. I wept buckets (in a good way) reading Love is Blind. Also, who know that tuning a piano was such an art.

Albert Einstein Speaking by Reg Gadney

Albert Einstein Speaking is a novel but is based on real events. It takes as its inspiration that fact that Albert Einstein took a phone call from a wrong number on his birthday. From that phone call sprang an unlikely friendship. We learn about Albert Einstein the man, rather than the physicist. His is a fascinating story and this would make an excellent film. I hope that negotiations are ongoing to bring it to a screen near me soon.

Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Gowar Hermes

This was one of my Christmas books from my brother. It is packed full of history and myth, two things that I love in a novel, coupled with a page turning story. We are in Georgian London with a mermaid. Every last page is delicious. My top tip, if you were ever thinking of getting a mermaid, don’t.

The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

First of all I was seduced by the cover. I know, I know you shouldn’t. A wood cut of storm bent tree and a raging stream. Then the blurb which promised to transport me back to 15th century Somerset. Then the premise that the story is told backwards in time. You start on Saturday. Then you learn what happened on Friday and finally you discover the truth of the matter of what happened early on Friday. I loved everything about this book and strongly urge you to have a physical copy of it as it is beautiful as well as brilliant.

Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop

Victoria Hislop has returned Greece for her latest novel. This time she takes us from the 1930’s right up to the present day. I confess that I found the first half of the book a bit of plod. It is thick with the history of war time Greece and vivid on what living through a war means even for those who do not fight. In the second half the story really gets going and I began to care. My advice; take the history lesson (I learnt lots) and then enjoy the story.

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

Things I like in a novel: History, Gothic, Mystery, Myth. Things in Jars has all these things in buckets. We are in the middle of Victorian London with a flame haired lady detective, a seven foot bearded lady housekeeper, a pugilistic ghost and a missing child with mysterious powers. What follows is a delicious romp. I have previously loved Himself by Jess Kidd and this was every bit as good.

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

At the risk of repeating myself I do like History, Myth and Mystery in a book. Add in East Anglia and I’m even happier. Wakenhyrst has all these things, it takes place in the landscape of my childhood in the time of my grandparents. Wakenhyrst will have the prickles on the back of your neck raised whilst you feverishly turn the pages to find out what happens next. When I next go home I am going in search of wall painting in churches.

Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

More History, Myth and Mystery. This time in Franco’s Spain. Labyrinth of the Spirts is the fourth and final part of Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. Don’t worry if you haven’t read all the others it stands alone as well. Who is good? Who is bad? And will Daniel ever find peace? Labyrinth of the Spirits elegantly takes you on a journey that is often violent but always compelling.

The Golden Thread by Kassia St Clair

Another of my Christmas books from my brother. Not a novel this time. The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History is fascinating read. Kassia St Clair takes you through the story of fabric from the Stone Age to the Space Age. Every chapter is compelling. I confess that I do love to sew and have a thing about fabric but even if you are not a textile fanatic The Golden Thread take on our history via thread is fascinating.

Rosie: Scenes from a Vanished Life by Rose Tremain

Rose Tremain is one of my favourite fiction writers. Rosie is all fact. It is Rose Tremain’s story up until she turns eighteen, when she stops being Rosie and becomes Rose. Her childhood was gilded but far from happy. Her novels are far from biographical, I have enjoyed each one for its story and I realise that I had no sense of who she is, beyond living in Norfolk. Now I feel that I know the girl she was and am happy that she went on to become a beloved novelist. Fascinating, thought provoking and occasionally teary.

Anna of Kleve by Alison Weir

Alison Wier has set herself the task of writing a novel a year about each of Henry VIII wives. Regular readers will know that I have already enjoyed Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour. I confess that I stared knowing little of Anne of Cleves or Anna of Kleve beyond the fact that Henry took against her but that she ended up with a palace of her own. I couldn’t have even told you where Cleves was. Turns out Kleve is on Rhine by the Dutch German border. Alison Weir makes a rather rash assumption about Anna that I’m not sure buy into, but that didn’t stop me enjoying the book and I am eagerly looking forward to Catherine Howard next Spring.

What will you read this summer?

Best Summer Books 2019 what to read this summer
Some of these books have been sent to me by publishers, others have come via NetGalley, some are gifts from my brother and some I've bought myself.  I've enjoyed everyone of them and hope you do too.

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