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.


  1. Maddie Please
    July 24, 2019 / 9:14 am

    Great blog as always, and thank you so much for the mention! I can’t wait to read Alison Weir’s book on Catherine Howard too.

    • Catherine
      July 24, 2019 / 1:42 pm

      I am loving the Alison Wier series of books learning so much about the women behind the names

  2. July 24, 2019 / 1:46 pm

    Good tips, Catherine. I loved Victoria Hislop’s early books, The Island, The Return, The Thread and The Sunrise, but didn’t take to Cartes Postale, so I’m interested in trying the new one. I saw Alison Weir speak at a publishing conference and would love to work my way through her six wives books!

    I adored Susanna Bavin’s The Poor Relation and another recent favourite was Patricia Wilson’s Secrets of Santorini, a time slip novel which I devoured on holiday… in Santorini last month! It really added something to my holiday, especially when I visited Akrotiri and saw the ruins from the volcanic eruption.

    I’m looking forward to reading Rowan Coleman’s The Girl at the Window, Stephanie Bultland’s The Girl in the Photograph and Hazel Gaynor’s The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter (about Grace Darling).

    • Catherine
      July 24, 2019 / 2:02 pm

      Oooh a time slip novel …
      Scuttle off to investigate

    • Tricia Crawford
      July 30, 2019 / 10:16 am

      I am looking forward to reading Transcription by Kate Atkinson. Would love to have a couple more books to delve into too.

  3. July 24, 2019 / 2:10 pm

    Not sure yet! Maybe Geisha Memoirs.

    • Catherine
      July 24, 2019 / 10:02 pm

      Loved this, enjoy

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:15 am

      I love a book that transports you to a different time and place

  4. Solange
    July 24, 2019 / 6:33 pm

    The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth.

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:24 am

      I’ve heard good things about The Mother-In-Law

  5. Ellen Stafford
    July 24, 2019 / 7:48 pm

    I absolutely love reading. I’m currently reading a memoir by someone who was on the Titanic. I love historical reads and Alison Weir is a great author

    • Catherine
      July 24, 2019 / 10:00 pm

      A first hand Titantic read sounds really interesting

  6. David
    July 24, 2019 / 9:09 pm

    Hello! I am looking forward to reading ‘Swallowtail Summer’ by Erica James as it looks like an enjoyable, easy summer read.

    • Catherine
      July 24, 2019 / 9:59 pm

      That sounds like the perfect summer read

  7. Julia Linsley
    July 25, 2019 / 8:56 am


    • Catherine
      July 25, 2019 / 7:19 pm

      I’m looking forward to this too

  8. Carole Nott
    July 25, 2019 / 10:06 am

    Would love to read this Victoria Hislop – sounds like a great story

    • Catherine
      July 25, 2019 / 7:20 pm

      It is so much history as well

  9. Amanda Baggott
    July 25, 2019 / 10:59 am

    I’d love to read something romantic

    • Catherine
      July 25, 2019 / 7:20 pm

      Sounds like you need to join me in reading The Mini Break by Maddie Please

  10. Clara
    July 25, 2019 / 11:00 am

    I’m looking forward to reading Michelle Obama’s book

    • Catherine
      July 25, 2019 / 7:21 pm

      Good choice, adding it to my list too

      • July 25, 2019 / 9:41 pm

        I’ve ordered it from the library but it may take some time to arrive!

  11. Elizm
    July 25, 2019 / 11:10 am

    I am looking forward to browsing in a bookshop and reading whatever takes my fancy rather than all the stuff I have to read for work!

    • Catherine
      July 25, 2019 / 7:21 pm

      Browsing in a bookshop is one of my favourite things

  12. Adrian Bold
    July 25, 2019 / 11:23 am

    It’s been out a while, but I’m looking forward to (finally!) reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

    • Catherine
      July 25, 2019 / 7:21 pm

      Such a good book, enjoy

      • July 25, 2019 / 9:42 pm

        That’s in my TBR cupboard too – rising towards the top of the pile. The trouble is, there are so many new ones coming out and I’m not disciplined enough to buy only the number I can realistically read!

  13. Keith Hunt
    July 25, 2019 / 2:05 pm

    QE2: The Cunard Line Flagship, Queen Elizabeth 2

    • Catherine
      July 25, 2019 / 7:22 pm

      I bet there are lots of good stories to be told there

  14. Linda Ford
    July 25, 2019 / 2:39 pm

    Looking forward to reading Secrets Of The Home Front Girls by Kate Thompson

    • Catherine
      July 25, 2019 / 7:23 pm

      This sounds like a great read, Women of that era are so interesting

  15. Margaret Wacey
    July 25, 2019 / 9:46 pm

    I have just finished reading The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey. I am going to look for more of her work to read this summer as I really loved it

    • Catherine
      July 25, 2019 / 11:15 pm

      I loved the Western Wind, such a clever way of telling a story and a brilliant evocation of time and geography

  16. July 25, 2019 / 11:35 pm

    I love good book recommendations! These are all new to me. I’m rereading Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life and looking forward to City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. And now these!

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:39 am

      City of Girls is on my list

  17. Paul BIngham
    July 26, 2019 / 6:31 am

    Not sure yet ,will be looking for some historical facts book in the summer sales

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:40 am

      Love a historical facts books

  18. Geri Gregg
    July 26, 2019 / 6:56 am

    Great giveaway! This sounds like a fab summer read

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:40 am

      They are both perfect summer reads

  19. Catherine Stewart
    July 26, 2019 / 7:21 am

    Lots of baby books to prepare for our new arrival in October!

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:41 am

      How exciting, hope you have not been too hot in all this weather

  20. Rebecca Beesley
    July 26, 2019 / 5:52 pm

    I absolutely adore Victoria Hislop and might re-read the island this summer as it has been ages since i read it originally

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:44 am

      I absolutely loved The Island

  21. July 26, 2019 / 8:12 pm

    Some very interesting suggestions. I retired from my work in a public library 3 years ago, and don’t always see the new and interesting reads anymore. Thanks for sharing.

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:48 am

      There are so many interesting reads, new and old, just waiting to be discovered

  22. Margaret Clarkson
    July 26, 2019 / 9:52 pm

    I’m looking forward to reading “Cockroaches” the second Harry Hole thriller, as I’ve only recently read the first one.

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:49 am

      Mr CW is a big Jo Nesbo fan

  23. Margaret Gallagher
    July 26, 2019 / 10:25 pm

    Mark Billingtons their little secret is first – any other that peaks my interest ! Lots mentioned above

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:50 am

      Love a good crime novel

  24. Saetana
    July 26, 2019 / 10:58 pm

    Looking forward to reading the latest episode in Janny Wurts’ Wars of Light and Shadow epic fantasy series. I also have one of Alison Weir’s history books about Elizabeth of York sitting in my to-read pile :o)

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:53 am

      Janny Wurts is new to me, I’ve just started at ground zero on the Shardlake novels but this looks like a good set when I’ve consumed those

  25. Michelle Smith
    July 27, 2019 / 12:06 am

    The Gift by Cercilia Ahern

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:54 am

      Cecelia Ahern is such a talented writer

  26. July 27, 2019 / 4:17 am

    I am looking forward to reading City Of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert x

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:55 am

      The City of Girls is getting quite a few votes!

  27. July 27, 2019 / 5:03 am

    I absolutely love reading books on the beach in the summer. Currently reading one by the Dalai Lama!

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:56 am

      Impressive, I have never read a book by the Dalai Lama

  28. Dale Dow
    July 27, 2019 / 10:55 am

    I’ll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie, it’s on my reading list

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:57 am

      You’re in for a summer full of suspense

  29. July 27, 2019 / 5:12 pm

    I must reread Catch 22 – The most amazing book

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:57 am

      I loved Catch 22 and you’re right probably time to re read

  30. Kelly Whitfield
    July 27, 2019 / 10:06 pm

    I’m just looking forward to reading anything that’s not a children’s book as I read to my baby daughter everyday and am starting to miss grown up books 😊

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:58 am

      I remember that stage, can still recite The Gruffalo!

  31. lynn neal
    July 27, 2019 / 10:28 pm

    The curious incident of the dog in the night time!

  32. July 28, 2019 / 12:59 pm

    I will be reading Educated by Tara Westover and looking forward to tucking into Anne of Cleves.

  33. Natalie White
    July 28, 2019 / 2:18 pm

    I’m going to re-read all of the Mhairi McFarlane books while I wait for her new one!

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 11:10 am

      I do like a rom com

  34. Sarai
    July 28, 2019 / 2:24 pm

    I have just read Circe by Madeline Miller & would love to read Anna of Kleeve by Alison Weir as I have heard such good things about her books.

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 11:09 am

      Have just finished Circe, sooooo good. Missed dinner.

  35. Joanna B
    July 28, 2019 / 4:11 pm

    Would love to read both of these books, love Alison Weir and Victoria Hislop. Those who are Loved my choice for summer, love to read something set somewhere hot when on holiday

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 11:08 am

      I always like to have a book either set or about where I am visiting.

  36. Nancy P
    July 29, 2019 / 1:40 am

    I am reading Dear Wife.

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 11:08 am

      I’ve heard good things about this, her first book was a corker

  37. July 29, 2019 / 10:36 am

    My lovely wife by Samantha Downing.

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 11:06 am

      Even the title has the hairs on the back of my neck rising, enjoy!

  38. July 29, 2019 / 11:34 am

    I’ve got so many new books it read! One I’m excited about is The Librarian of Auschwitz

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 11:06 am

      Isn’t it funny how one book will suddenly call to you from your TBR pile.

  39. Michelle Ferguson
    July 29, 2019 / 1:06 pm

    I am obsessed with Henry 8th and all of his wives so would love to read Anne of Cleves especially as I spent 20 years in Germany with kleve being 30 minutes away, used to go shopping there quite often.

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 11:05 am

      I had never looked to see where Kleve was before now but will definitely pop in the next time we head to Germany

  40. Sj Straw
    July 29, 2019 / 1:35 pm

    I’m looking forward to reading The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins. It’s been in my TBR pile for a while!

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 11:04 am

      Just looked it up, nice cover …. I know you shouldn’t judge but …..

  41. Carolynn Woodland
    July 29, 2019 / 2:32 pm

    I am looking forward to reading Lucinda Riley’s latest publication. I just love her books, especially the Seven Sisters series.

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 11:03 am

      Just how these have escaped me is a mystery, they sound like really good reads

  42. Melissa Lee
    July 29, 2019 / 3:11 pm

    I’ve just started the latest Kate Morton book. I always love her novels so am excited for this one.

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 11:02 am

      I’m with you there, they are always a good read

    July 29, 2019 / 3:29 pm

    The dwelling place by Catherine Cookson, its been in my wardrobe for a couple of years

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 11:01 am

      I read masses of Catherine Cookson at one time but haven’t picked one up for ages, I should because I used to love them

  44. Tracy Hanson
    July 29, 2019 / 10:34 pm

    ABSOLUTE PROOF – only James Patterson book I’ve not read. Thanks for the chance.

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 11:00 am

      The first day mine two went to nursery, I sat down and inhaled a proper book!

  45. Laura Napier
    July 29, 2019 / 10:57 pm

    Cant wait to read anything i can! My sons 6 months old and into everything – i dont get enough reading time anymore!

  46. Wendy Amer
    July 30, 2019 / 9:35 am

    I’ve just finished the Secret Life of Bees which was beautifully written. I will be reading Force of Nature by Jane Harper next, followed by Lullaby by Leila Slimani.

    I’d love to add the Victoria Hislop to these!

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:58 am

      The Secret Life of Bees is one of my favourite books ever

  47. Tricia Crawford
    July 30, 2019 / 10:14 am

    I have Transcription by Kate Atkinson but could definitely do with a couple more good reads!

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 10:59 am

      Kate Atkinson writes so well, love all of her work

  48. laura love
    July 30, 2019 / 11:27 am

    I am looking forward to reading some more Susan Lewis books – a great storyteller

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 11:35 am

      With 28 books to her name, I hang my head that until now I have not thought of reading one

  49. hayley pemberton
    July 30, 2019 / 12:38 pm

    I have a big pile waiting on my bedside table. currently reading playing with fire by tess gerritsen

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 1:12 pm

      Tess Germiston writes a page turning novel

  50. Emma Ellams
    July 30, 2019 / 1:16 pm

    Postcards from Italy by Alex Brown, the perfect summer read

    • Catherine
      July 30, 2019 / 1:51 pm

      Perfect for an Italian jaunt

  51. July 30, 2019 / 2:19 pm

    I am looking forward to reading these two prize books if I am lucky enough to win also The Cut Out Girlby Lars Van Es

    • Catherine
      August 1, 2019 / 10:24 am

      The Cut Out Girl is one of those books that everyone should read

  52. Helen Jones
    July 30, 2019 / 3:44 pm

    Circle I’ve just finished reading Song of Achilles so this is a must read for me

    • Catherine
      August 1, 2019 / 10:24 am

      Loved, loved, loved Circe

    • Catherine
      August 1, 2019 / 10:25 am

      We’ve just come back from San Francisco and I could hear her voice at almost every corner

  53. janinex
    July 30, 2019 / 8:07 pm

    Looking forward to reading The Poor Relation by Susanna Bavin

    • Catherine
      August 1, 2019 / 10:26 am

      Make sure you have some spare time, I always end up unable to put a Susanna Bavin book down until the last fullstop has been consumed.

  54. Megan
    July 30, 2019 / 9:00 pm

    I’m looking forward to reading the third book in the Shardlake series finally.

    • Catherine
      August 1, 2019 / 10:27 am

      I’ve just dived into book four, such a good series, I’m not sure how I have missed them until now

  55. Louise Green
    July 30, 2019 / 9:12 pm

    The Mother-In-Law

    • Catherine
      August 1, 2019 / 10:29 am

      The Mother In Law has got a big buzz around it this summer (in a good way)

  56. Natalie Crossan
    July 30, 2019 / 9:26 pm

    Finally looking forward to reading The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood

    • Catherine
      August 1, 2019 / 10:23 am

      The Handmaid’s Tale was my first Margaret Atwood and has had me in a frenzy of excitement each time she publishes a new book

  57. laura stewart
    July 30, 2019 / 9:29 pm

    slave gor by sarah forysth

    • Catherine
      August 1, 2019 / 10:22 am

      Such an important book

  58. Pam Francis Gregory
    July 30, 2019 / 10:10 pm

    A new George R R Martin (if it’s ever released!)

    • Catherine
      August 1, 2019 / 10:21 am

      We can all hope!

  59. Sam Parkes
    July 30, 2019 / 10:55 pm

    I have a reading pile and top of it is Friend Request. Love Victoria Hislops books have read them all The Island, the thread etc

    • Catherine
      August 1, 2019 / 10:20 am

      I’m not sure I’d ever venture back onto social media after reading Friend Request!

  60. Tammy Neal
    July 30, 2019 / 11:00 pm


    • Catherine
      August 1, 2019 / 10:19 am

      Good choice, love Kate Atkinson

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