You’ve packed everything you need and there’s one book-shaped hole in your suitcase…but what to go for? Here a four of this year’s best summer reads:
A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride
Recently awarded the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is the debut novel by Eimear McBride and one that she’s been fighting to get published for nigh on a decade. Among a host of glowing reviews, the work has drawn comparisons to Joyce and Beckett for its experimentalism, its sense of Irish-ness, and the strong Catholic overtones. The novel tells the story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour, as well as touching on sexuality and the search for meaning. According to Jonathan Ruppin, web editor for Foyles bookshop, it “will delight every reader concerned that the novel had nowhere new to go”. The novel is one of many in the new range of eBooks by Sainsburys
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
For something that’ll see you through a fortnight’s break (or more), Donna Tartt’s third novel The Goldfinch is lengthy Pulitzer-prize winning masterpiece. 11 years after the publication of her previous novel The Little Friend, Tartt finally revealed the story of Theo Decker, who, having survived an accident that killed his mother, becomes obsessed with the one object that most reminds him of her: a small painting of a goldfinch. From this premise, the reader taken on a journey that embraces loss, self-invention and the power of art. It garnered a rave review from the oft-criticised Michiko Kakutani, literary critic for The New York Times, who said: “her glorious, Dickensian novel…pulls together all her remarkable storytelling talents into a rapturous, symphonic whole and reminds the reader of the immersive, stay-up-all-night pleasures of reading”.
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
If you’re planning a vacation with family and friends, Straub’s The Vacationers might make you feel a bit self-conscious, given that this well-known scenario is the basis for the plot. It’s summer in Mallorca, Jim and Franny are celebrating their 35th anniversary, as well as the high school graduation of their daughter Sylvia, whose sole aim for the holiday is to lose her virginity. This trio are joined by their long-standing friend Charles and his husband Lawrence, and their son Bobby and his girlfriend, as all their relationships, new and old, are put to the test – some strengthening, others dissolving. This makes for a much less challenging read than the previous two books on the list but broaches big questions about what it means to know another person, to keep secrets and to form a marital bond.
Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta
Sometimes we need to eschew the dense texts and the experimental narratives in favour of a classic page-turner. Especially when we’re doing nothing but lying on the beach. In Those Who Wish Me Dead Michael Koryta forges a taut narrative that turns the witness protection thriller on its head. 14-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a double murder and ends up on a wilderness survival course when his parents reject the idea of placing him in a traditional witness protection program. Hunting him in this remote setting are two sadistic killers, the Blackwell brothers, who start a enormous forest fire to drive out their prey; and caught in the middle are other search parties who want to find Jace before the Blackwells do, including two women on an injured horse. Koryta can seemingly turn his hand to many genres and has proved that he’s right at home with this kind of fast-paced thriller.