With that familiar conviction that life is beginning over again, the summer brings freedom to read whatever you please. If you’re struggling to choose or looking to branch out, Cherwell has you covered with five books for a summer never to be forgotten.
1. Falling Awake, Alice Oswald
Read Oswald’s latest collection in one breath, pick it up at dawn and dusk over the next few months, then visit the Royal Festival Hall on September 20 to see her win the Forward Prize for Best Collection (fingers crossed). Try waking on a summer morning by reading ‘Tithonus – 46 minutes in the life of the dawn’ from 4:17 till sunrise, and round off your day with ‘Evening Poem’ – for a contemplative and outdoorsy vac.
2. The Greengage Summer, Rumer Godden
“On and off, all that hot French August, we made ourselves ill from eating the greengages…” A coming-of-age novel for anyone dreaming of a lazy summer in the Champagne country, with a hint of discovery and Pink Panther intrigue. Best read over croissants dipped in black coffee. This ‘true, or partly true’ story will lend a gold-green atmosphere to your summer.
3. For Esmé – with Love and Squalor, J. D. Salinger
A collection of nine short stories containing such treasures as ‘A Perfect Day for Bananafish’ and ‘De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period’ – the stories are even more kooky and moreish than the titles. If you’re a brilliant but troubled young person, no one gets you quite like Salinger. The final story, ‘Teddy,’ will provide your necessary dose of Zen enlightenment, but its controversial ending will haunt you till October comes.
4. In Gratitude, Jenny Diski
I first met the teenage Diski through memories entitled ‘What was wrong with everything was people’ and ‘Why didn’t you just do what you’re told?’ in the London Review. A readerly relationship with Diski involves a lot of jealousy – of her way of keeping it real and seeing differently. And it involves wonder – at how she came through all this to the completion of this memoir soon before she died in April.
5. A Life (Une Vie), Guy de Maupassant
Maupassant’s first novel unfolds the passage of a woman’s life of dispossession and powerlessness with the passage of the seasons. It’s a poolside slow burner that made Henry James question what constitutes a ‘story’. A Life renews itself at its end, counteracting the banality of the closing remark, “You see, life’s never as good or as bad as we think.”