Sunday Salon: it’s not summer reading list

sundaysalonIt seems every newspaper or magazine I pick up at the moment has an article about great books to read for the summer. These articles have one premise in common – that we’re all about to spend the next coupleof months lounging about in our gardens, at the pool or on beaches with noses glued to a book.

Now there are two things wrong with that premise in my case. One is that beach/pool holidays are absolutely not my thing. I did all that sun lounger by the pool thing when I was younger but now spending an entire day like that would leave me feeling extremely uncomfortable and bored. An hour or so on a terrace before breakfast or towards the end of the afternoon, when the intense heat has subsided to sub Mercury levels, is much more to my taste.

The other problem is that you can’t sit out in the garden with a book if it’s raining, well not unless you want very soggy pages. But for those of us living in the UK, that’s the reality of our summer so far this year. Instead of blue skies we’ve had weeks of grey skies. Different shades of grey admittedly but not ones that lend themselves well to a few hours of peaceful reading in the garden to the sound of a few twittering birds and distant lawnmowers.  And as for sitting there in shorts and t shirt – well forget it. Jeans and a fleece are more like it most weekends.

If this is summer, I want my money back…

Does this mean I’m shutting my books up until autumn when at least I won’t feel short changed because I’m driven in doors? Not at all. I have plenty of good books just waiting to be opened. Here’s what’s on my horizon for the next few months:


Petals of Blood
Petals of Blood by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. I really must finish this novel which was seen by the Kenyan government as such a savage indictment of their regime that they imprisoned the author without trial. I’ve been reading this book now for about a month. It’s a tremendously powerful book, almost too powerful and painful which is why I find I can’t read more than a few pages at a time.

Hotel du Lac
Hotel du Lac, the Man Booker prize winner by Anita Brookner. I’ll be reading this as part of the Anita Brookner reading month hosted by Ali at heavenali in July. I enjoyed this when I read it many years ago but have forgotten much else about it.

Cleaner of Chartres
Cleaner of Chartres by Sally Vickers. This is the book club choice for the month. I don’t know very much about it other than it’s been a popular choice at book clubs this year.

Country Girls
Country Girl, Edna O’ Brien’s autobiography. This went on my wish list immediately after I saw her talk at the Hay Festival and then read her landmark novel The Country Girls, but it’s taken a while to come through from the library.  The Telegraph called it ‘the perfect autobiography’ in its review last week so I have high hopes for it.


I’m hoping Kate Atkinon’s Life after Life gets to me. I was number 10 in line for this at the library so maybe by August I’ll have got to the top of the list.

Memory in the Flesh by Ahlam Mosteghanemi who is one of the best-selling female authors in the Arabic world.  I’m going to read this to represent Algeria in my Reading along the Prime Meridian challenge. 

To coincide with a short holiday in Italy  I’ll be looking for recommendations of something by an Italian author (more meaty than Andrea Camilleri’s  Inspector Montlbano series). Anyone have any suggestions?

So that’s what is going to be on my bedside table in coming weeks. What are your plans??

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on June 30, 2013, in Sunday Salon, world literature and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I love all of Kate Atkinson, and think she’s a great and very versatile writer. Hope you’ll enjoy the life after life – it’s clever and despite some of the mixed reviews this is a very good read indeed.

    • Thanks for the recommendation Corri. It seems I have to wait a very long time before it gets to me unfortunately…. Karen Heenan-Davies


  2. Added Petals of Blood to my ever-growing wish list. It sounds like something I would be really interested in reading. I’m going away next week and I’m trying to figure out which books to bring. Maybe Life After Life?

    • I’m waiting for Atkinson to get to me – I think I’m about six in line in the library queue now – so I can’t judge. I’ve seen mixed reviews. Petals is the kind of challenging read I think you like Christina

      • I bought Atkinson a while back because I loved the synopsis so much. Since I’ve read some bad reviews and well, it just got pushed down on my list. And yeah, I think Petals will be a good book for me to read.

  3. Clearly you must have written this before the heatwave. Maybe this post gave us some weather-luck! Hope you’re feeling sunnier and more inspired.

    • Someone must have been listening to my complaints because suddenly they turned the cooker on and we have a heatwave.
      Sorry not to have replied to your comment earlier but for some reason you went into my spam folder.

  4. buriedinprint

    I understand what you mean about painful reading. Often, though, I find those are the most memorable books, for all the power therein.

    In the next few weeks, I’ll be reading through the two massive stacks of books in the hall that we all keep tripping over at home, one from the library and one being recent additions. There isn’t anything particularly seasonal about them, except, perhaps, more books about zombies than usual. Somehow that seems summery.

    • That’s so true. I know parts of this wil keep returnig to my memory. It was the experience I had with another painful book – Germinal.
      Good luck with that TBR pile

  5. I’ve been meaning to get hold of the new Salley Vickers. I find her very variable indeed. I loved ‘The Other Side of You’ but some of her other work has been dire. However, this one comes highly recommended by the author Patrick Gale and that alone makes me want to give it the benefit of the doubt.

  6. Let’s trade summers! I love cold weather and it’s so hot here. I just put Country Girl unread in my pile of books to donate! Now I need to take it out. Petals of Blood sounds powerful. I’m going to see if my library has it. Enjoy your week!

  7. Nothing so heavy, to be honest. I have a lot of ARCs to read, mostly romance, mystery, and fantasy.

    And if it’s any consolation, it’s been raining a bit here in Virginia as well. Not to mention that it’s been incredibly humid. Definitely not sitting-on-the-porch-with-a-book weather; it’s more like hole-up-in-the-nice-air-conditioned-house weather.

  8. I have not really planned ahead. Need to finish the Gardam trilogy and Life after Life has been recommended to me as well. I don’t read outdoors anymore. More comfortable on the couch or in bed. Also, I can’t tolerate the sun and humidity the way I once did. Hats, lotion, sunglasses required for gardening and walking.

  9. Country Girls sounds awesome…I’m going to check it out! And I love Kate Atkinson’s books…Life After Life is one I downloaded this past week.


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