Sunnies (new): Cerjo, Top: Jones, Shorts: Vögele (previous seasons)
In my blogpost Tips for happy summer days I recommend reading as a perfect way to enjoy your summer days. To inspire you, I will list 3 novels in this blogpost that I think are absolutely worth reading. Like I have written above: You are what you read. You will see that this is very true for my choices. One novel is all about the love for reading, the second one is all about the love for writing and the third one takes place in a school environment. Well…meet me! All three novels have three elements in common: They stay with you for a long time after having finished reading them, there is drama involved and despite these 2 factors they all are an easy read. So, let’s have a closer look at my choices, shall we?
“The colour of milk” by Nell Leyshon
My hair fascinator is the colour of milk (and how apt for this novel too: a church in the background…)
It’s the year 1830 and fifteen-year-old Mary, whose hair is “the colour of milk” lives a rather dull and harsh life on her father’s farm. She has got a very outspoken, witty and bold character. Because she has got a bad leg she can’t work as hard as her three sisters and one day she is sent to live at the vicar’s house to look after his sick wife. Here, Mary is taught to read and write, a skill that sets her apart from everyone she’s ever known. The way she learns this skill is crucial to the story and makes the reader understand why she keeps repeating the phrase “this is my book and I am writing it by my own hand” throughout the novel.
The author uses the seasons and nature as a wonderful background of the story, which makes sense for a girl that has grown up on a farm. The novel is written as if by Mary herself, so the language is very simple (she had just learned to write, that’s why), but there is lots to read between the lines of the deceptively simple language.
What I loved about this novel was the original approach of the farmer girl writing down her own sad story using her own words. I am a huge fan of “Pride and Prejudice” and was shocked to realise how different the life of the Bennet sisters was compared to the life of people less well off at that same time. I also liked the strong character of Mary and the way she took care of herself, within the set boundaries. A pageturner that will make you thankful for living in the here and now as a (young) woman.
“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer
Hat: H&M (previous season)
Was the first novel all about reading and writing, this novel completely focusses on writing. The novel consists of letters only, letters that are sent by and to the different characters in the novel. In this way we get to know the characters as well as the beautiful island of Guernsey and what life must have been like during WWII and shortly after. The novel centers around two female characters. Juliet is an up-and-coming writer who is looking for a new subject to write about. One day she gets a letter from a Guernsey pig farmer, Adam Dawsey, who has found Juliet’s name and address in a second-hand copy of Charles Lamb’s essays. This first letter leads to many more from several people from Guernsey and this correspondence makes Juliet go to the island to get to know the people and their stories better. On Guernsey she learns more and more about Elizabeth McKenna, a strong woman who has spontaneously invented the bookclub (see title of the novel) after she and a crowd of fellow islanders bumped into a German patrol after curfew. In order to avoid an arrest she came up with the story of a bookclub evening, though in reality they had just enjoyed the rare luxury of sharing a roasted pig together (which was highly forbidden).
The novels tells you a lot about the German Occupation of Guernsey and shows what it must have been like living in London just after WWII, two subjects I did not know much about before. Although the war is not a light subject at all, Mary Ann Shaffer has written a heartwarming and often witty novel about it, a novel that I finished in no time at all! On top of learning lots about Guernsey and life at that time, you really get inspired by the power of literature (because of the many novels mentioned by the different bookclub members) and it enthuses you to read. What more can one wish for in a novel?!
“Nineteen minutes” by Jodie Picoult
Have you ever wondered how long nineteen minutes can take? In this powerful novel it only takes nineteen minutes for Peter, a boy bullied all his life, to take revenge. One day he decides that enough is enough and he bursts into his own school with four guns and keeps shooting until ten people are dead and another nineteen are seriously wounded. This happens at the start of the novel and as a reader you feel bewildered and you wonder how on earth it has come to this. And that is the power of the novel, because it will take you through all the events in Peter’s life leading up to that day, to what happens directly after and to what happens during the trial that follows.
I read this novel many years ago and it still is one that I remember so vividly. Maybe it’s because it takes place in a school environment, maybe it’s because Jodie Picoult knows how to picture the despair of parents so well, maybe it’s because there are unexpected twists and turns or maybe it’s because she manages to write in such a way that the fact that we all have different perspectives on the same event (see my blogpost on this subject here) becomes absolutely clear and even understandable. It’s a novel rich in characters and a very subtle one too, despite the dramatic opening. The novel also deals with deceptively simple questions (that are oh so difficult to answer), such as: Can your own child become a mystery to you? What does it mean to be different in our society? Is it ever okay for a victim to strike back? And who, if anyone, has the right to judge someone else?
All three novels are real pageturners, which I like for a summer read, and all give you food for thought, which I like in general. Have you got any recommendations for me to read during my holidays? Please share them here!