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Light Reads for Summer

Sarah Biggerstaff

Summer well and truly underway, and with it, longer nights and glorious sunshiny days.

Could there be a better time for some fun, light reading?

Here are just a few suggestions for your summer reading list, perfect for reading on the beach, in the park, or inside (preferably with air conditioning) when you want to take a little time out and relax this summer.

Jane Austen’s Emma

Image: penguin.com.au

Image: penguin.com.au

This is my favourite Austen book, mostly because I think it is the most fun of all her novels. For those of you who haven’t seen any of the film adaptations of this classic matchmaking-gone-awry story, you are in for a treat, and for those of you who have, not even the funniest version of this film does credit to the absurdities and hilarities of the brilliant ensemble of characters Austen creates in her comic portrait of village life.

This book has it all: romance, comedy, intrigue, friendship, and above all a witty and charmingly flawed heroine. Emma Woodhouse (the only Austen heroine who gets her name in the title, I might add!) may be handsome, rich, and clever, but boy, does she have a lot to learn about life!

Love her or hate her, watching her progress from one romantic faux pas to the next is a lot of fun. Definitely a top summer read.

Stella Gibbons’ Nightingale Wood

Image: penguinrandomhouse.com

Image: penguinrandomhouse.com

I reviewed Gibbon’s first book, Cold Comfort Farm, earlier this year, citing it as a great winter read because of it’s gloomy, picturesque scenery, and sharp, dry humour. Nightingale Wood is altogether a different story. In it we meet Viola Thompson, the pretty, but penniless shop girl and young widow, who is taken in by her dead husband’s family out of moral obligation.

It has been referred to as a Cinderella story, but it has some important changes. Firstly, Viola, though sweet and willing to please, is comically dim and easily manipulated, and by no means the most vivid character in the novel. Secondly, the step-sisters, far from being cruel, greedy, and ugly, are hugely sympathetic.

Cowed by their bullying father, they too seek an escape from the luxurious prison that is home life for the adult spinster daughter. True to Gibbon’s modus operandi, this book is funny, heart-warming, clever, and engaging. An underrated classic, I guarantee it will become an instant favourite, and really help to brighten up your summer.

Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair

Image via www.hodder.co.uk

Image via www.hodder.co.uk

Fforde’s novel is, without a doubt. one of the most generically-blended, unpredictable, literary referencing books I have ever read. And it is a fun, fast-paced read, ideal for summer. It combines elements of fantasy, crime, a touch of gothic (I quite enjoyed the unexpected vampire/werewolf interlude) and science fiction to create a truly spellbinding narrative.

The story centres on detective Thursday Next, who is trying to track down the original manuscript of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre before it is destroyed or altered, throwing the existence of the entire fictional realm into peril. Sounds far-fetched, right? But Fforde makes it work, largely because he balances the fantastic with the real so perfectly. And Thursday Next is a complete dynamo of a character; think Phillip Marlowe meets Nancy Drew, with a touch of John McClane thrown in. Pretty boss, right?

You might think fantasy is not for you, or that the whole crime thing is a bit removed from your usual reading material, but trust me, I was sceptical at first too, but this book is a genuinely great read, that will get you well and truly hooked. I would add, it is the first in a series of Thursday Next books. Sorry in advance for your new book franchise addiction!

Tina Fey’s Bossypants

Bossypants

This is a great summer read for all you smart, important readers out there (just to be clear, that is all of you) looking for a good, non-fiction read. Fey’s book, in addition to being extremely clever and incisive, is outright funny. What else would you expect from the woman who created Mean Girls, 30 Rock, Baby Mama, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Sisters . . . I could go on, but I don’t want to draw attention away from this amazing book.

In it, Fey recounts her experiences as a woman struggling to cut it in a world largely dominated by men, in which ‘women just aren’t as funny’ is something of a maxim, and a pretty lady is far more likely to be the target audience, or worse, the punchline, than the one telling the joke. “Only in comedy does an obedient white girl from the suburbs count as diversity” she quips in one of the book’s chapters. But the book is about more than just Fey’s impressive career; it also contains personal reflections on her awkward adolescence, growing up, marriage, and the everyday struggle to achieve a work-life balance.

Whether you’re a fan of her work of not, this book is a fantastic and charming memoir, filled with real life lessons on how to deal in a world you might not necessarily feel you fit into. And, as I’ve already said, it’s full of great laughs.

Obviously, there are hundreds, even thousands of great books out there to enjoy this summer, but these are my top picks, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

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Sarah Biggerstaff

Sarah Biggerstaff is a literary enthusiast, from Canberra, with a Masters degree in English Literature from the University of York in the United Kingdom. She is currently in her first year of an English PhD, the focus of which is British women’s fiction from the inter-war period, with a particular interest in feminist readings of these novels. Sarah hopes to one day write books, as well as review them, and in the meantime, is happy sharing her passion for books with others.

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