Reading list

7 classic summer reads

From the suspenseful to the exuberant, here's a selection of some of our favourite classic novels to read these warmer months

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Heat Wave

Penelope Lively

A moving portrayal of a fragile family damaged and defined by adultery, and the lengths to which a mother will go to protect the ones she loves.

Pauline is spending the summer at World's End, a cottage somewhere in the middle of England. This year the adjoining cottage is occupied by her daughter Teresa and baby grandson Luke; and, of course, Maurice, the man Teresa married. As the hot months unfold, Maurice grows ever more involved in the book he is writing - and with his female copy editor - and Pauline can only watch in dismay and anger as her daughter repeats her own mistakes in love.

 

In the Castle of My Skin

George Lamming

'They won't know you, the you that's hidden somewhere in the castle of your skin'

In a sleepy fishing village, nine-year-old G. leads a life of quiet mischief. While the village lies tranquil in the shadow of its English landlord, Mr Creighton, G. makes his own fun, crab catching, teasing preachers, and playing among the pumpkin vines.

A powerful autobiographical novel of race and class by one of the leading Caribbean writers of the 20th century, this classic coming-of-age novel is a story of tragic innocence, as the precocious G. comes to consciousness amid the collapse of colonial rule in 1930s Barbados.

 

The Beguiled

Thomas Cullinan

The inspiration behind Sofia Coppola’s latest film, The Beguiled is a wildly entertaining Southern Gothic of sexual tension, jealousy and vengeance.

When an injured Union soldier is found in the Virginia woods as the Civil War rages, he is brought to the nearby Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies to recover. For the sheltered girls and their teachers, the arrival of the attractive John McBurney is thrilling. But before long, the presence of their new guest turns them against each other and leads to potentially devastating consequences.

 

The Go-Between 

L. P. Hartley

‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there’

When one long, hot summer, young Leo is staying with a school-friend at Brandham Hall, he begins to act as a messenger between Ted, the farmer, and Marian, the beautiful young woman up at the hall. Drawn deeper into their dangerous game of deceit and desire, Leo’s role brings him to a shocking and premature revelation. The haunting story of a young boy’s awakening into the secrets of the adult world, The Go-Between is also an unforgettable evocation of the boundaries of Edwardian society.

Jagua Nana

Cyprian Ekwensi

Bold, moving, entertaining and controversial, this is the great novel of 1960s Lagos life - with one of the most unforgettable heroines in literature

Jagua Nana, no longer young but still irresistible, lives a life of hedonism in Lagos: men, parties, fights, wild nights in the Tropicana with her handsome young boyfriend Freddie. Rushing from one experience to the next in search of something she can't quite grasp, Jagua finds herself embroiled in shady politics, caught up in village feuds and a source of drama wherever she goes. 



Child of All Nations

Irmgard Keun

'To begin with, we're always terribly pleased to get a visa for a different country. But then the visa starts to expire, every day it expires a little more'

Kully knows some things you don’t learn at school. She knows you can’t enter a country without a passport or visa. And she knows that she and her parents can’t go back to Germany again – her father’s books are banned there. But there are also things she doesn’t understand, like why there might be a war in Europe – just that there are men named Hitler, Mussolini and Chamberlain involved. Little Kully is far more interested where their next meal will come from and the ladies who seem to buzz around her father.

Far From the Madding Crowd

Thomas Hardy

'I cannot allow any man to - to criticise my private conduct!' she exclaimed. 'Nor will I for a minute'

Hardy's powerful novel of swift sexual passion and slow-burning loyalty centres on Bathsheba Everdene, a proud working woman whose life is complicated by three different men - respectable farmer Boldwood, seductive Sergeant Troy and devoted Gabriel - making her the object of scandal and betrayal. Vividly portraying the superstitions and traditions of a small rural community, Far from the Madding Crowd shows the precarious position of a woman in a man's world.

 

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