sultry summer reads – the paperbacks

Finally, we’re (most of us) basking in the sun, smiling up at warm blue skies, baring our pasty limbs, and barbecuing anything and everything … a sure sign the mercury is rising. And so my thoughts have turned to seductively summery books. We might not be able to get away this summer, but a dip into these books will perfectly escapist.

And because the sun can be a mercurial tease in the UK, we don’t like to dilly-dally when we get days like this so I’ve picked books that you can snap up right away from your favourite bookseller right now.

Let’s get cracking …

The Great Godden


This is the story of one family, one dreamy summer – the summer when everything changes. In a holiday house by the sea, in a big, messy family, one teenager watches as brothers and sisters, parents and older cousins fill hot days with wine and games and planning a wedding.

Enter the Goddens – irresistible, charming, languidly sexy Kit and surly, silent Hugo. Suddenly there’s a serpent in this paradise – and the consequences will be devastating.

From bestselling, award-winning author Meg Rosoff comes a lyrical and quintessential coming-of-age tale – a summer book that’s as heady, timeless and irresistible as Bonjour Tristesse and I Capture the Castle but as sharp and fresh as Normal People.

‘A classic summer, coming-of-age story, wonderfully done. Its hazy nostalgia tempered by a winning self-awareness, The Great Godden is a joyful, generous read.’
Novel of the Week, Sunday Telegraph

‘A dreamy, atmospheric tale about love, sibling rivalry and family secrets.’
Irish Independent

‘Brilliant … a thoughtful, impactful summer read. It sounds like it’s going to be the quintessential holiday romance but it’s so much more than that.’
Pandora Sykes, The High Low Podcast

The Lido


Meet Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26: dreamers, campaigners, outdoor swimmers…

Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life, but everything she knows is changing. Only the local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder of the past and her beloved husband George. 

Kate has just moved and feels adrift in a city that is too big for her. She’s on the bottom rung of her career as a local journalist, and is determined to make something of it. 

So when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. But for Rosemary, it could be the end of everything. Together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the pool is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community.

‘A beautifully written testament to unlikely friendship, the galvanising pursuit of common goals and lifelong passions which link individuals with their community.’
Daily Mail

‘A standout hymn to female friendship and the power of collective action.’
Stylist

‘Brimming with charm and compassion… It’s tender, thoughtful and above all a feel-good celebration of community and life-changing friendship.’
Daily Express

The Cliff House


Her obsession. Your home.

Cornwall, summer of 1986.

The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.

If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.
If only her life was as perfect as theirs.
If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.
If only she lived at The Cliff House…

Amanda Jennings weaves a haunting tale of obsession, loss and longing, set against the brooding North Cornish coastline, destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

‘Absorbingly atmospheric … beautiful and sinister.’
The Times

‘Amanda Jennings is the real deal. Not only does she write beautifully, she evokes setting and atmosphere with enviable skill whilst keeping the reader compulsively turning the pages. She doesn’t just tell you a story, she draws you into it until you can taste the salt in the air, hear the crash of the waves and feel the heat of teenage obsession.’
Fiona Cummins


‘A very special and utterly unforgettable tale of obsession, desire, grief and deceit – read it.’ 
Heat

City of Girls


It is the summer of 1940.

Nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York with her suitcase and sewing machine, exiled by her despairing parents. Although her quicksilver talents with a needle and commitment to mastering the perfect hair roll have been deemed insufficient for her to pass into her sophomore year of Vassar, she soon finds gainful employment as the self-appointed seamstress at the Lily Playhouse, her unconventional Aunt Peg’s charmingly disreputable Manhattan revue theatre. There, Vivian quickly becomes the toast of the showgirls, transforming the trash and tinsel only fit for the cheap seats into creations for goddesses.

Exile in New York is no exile at all: here in this strange wartime city of girls, Vivian and her girlfriends mean to drink the heady highball of life itself to the last drop. And when the legendary English actress Edna Watson comes to the Lily to star in the company’s most ambitious show ever, Vivian is entranced by the magic that follows in her wake. But there are hard lessons to be learned, and bitterly regrettable mistakes to be made. Vivian learns that to live the life she wants, she must live many lives, ceaselessly and ingeniously making them new.

‘At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is,’ she confides. And so Vivian sets forth her story, and that of the women around her – women who have lived as they truly are, out of step with a century that could never quite keep up with them.

‘Breezily funny and vividly written, City Of Girls is a quietly radical celebration of feminine sexual inhibition that slips down as easily as a gin martini. Expect to see it on multiple beaches this summer.’
Claire Allfree, Metro

‘A glamorous, sexy, compelling romp of a novel about showgirls in New York in the 1940s. It is an addictive story, with vivid, brazenly drawn female characters, that brims with fascinating historical details of the time . Radical and refreshing to read.’

Dolly Alderton, Sunday Times

‘A rollicking, beautifully rendered ride of glitter and fun . Gilbert’s novel is something of a masterpiece of flapdoodle itself . Gilbert has a knack for storytelling and her plot doesn’t so much twist as twirl, high-kicking all the way . A rambunctious anthem to living a life joyous and satisfyingly full – and that deserves an ovation.’

Evening Standard

A Theatre for Dreamers


1960. The world is dancing on the edge of revolution, and nowhere more so than on the Greek island of Hydra, where a circle of poets, painters and musicians live tangled lives, ruled by the writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, troubled king and queen of bohemia.

Forming within this circle is a triangle: its points the magnetic, destructive writer Axel Jensen, his dazzling wife Marianne Ihlen, and a young Canadian poet named Leonard Cohen. Into their midst arrives teenage Erica, with little more than a bundle of blank notebooks and her grief for her mother.

Settling on the periphery of this circle, she watches, entranced and disquieted, as a paradise unravels. Burning with the heat and light of Greece, A Theatre for Dreamers is a spellbinding novel about utopian dreams and innocence lost – and the wars waged between men and women on the battlegrounds of genius.

‘Spellbinding . An immersive read, steeped in nostalgia. Samson’s poetic prose is so evocative that, by the end, you find yourself googling those entrancing images of Hydra, 1960, just to wallow further in the poignancy of it all.’
Vanity Fair

‘Heady armchair escapism … An impressionistic, intoxicating rush of sensory experience.’
Sunday Times

‘A surefire summer hit … Feels at once like a gift and an escape route … At once a blissful piece of escapism and a powerful meditation on art and sexuality – just the book to bring light into these dark days.’
Observer

Conviction


Everyone loves a true-crime podcast… until they have a starring role.

Conviction stars a strong female protagonist who is obsessed by true-crime podcasts and decides, one day, to investigate one of the unsolved crimes herself. It’s just a normal morning for Anna McDonald.

Gym kits, packed lunches, getting everyone up and ready. Until she opens the front door to her best friend, Estelle. Anna turns to see her own husband at the top of the stairs, suitcase in hand. They’re leaving together and they’re taking Anna’s two daughters with them. 

Left alone in the big, dark house, Anna can’t think, she can’t take it in. With her safe, predictable world shattered, she distracts herself with a story: a true-crime podcast. There’s a sunken yacht in the Mediterranean, multiple murders and a hint of power and corruption. Then Anna realises she knew one of the victims in another life. She is convinced she knows what happened. Her past, so carefully hidden until now, will no longer stay silent. This is a murder she can’t ignore, and she throws herself into investigating the case. But little does she know, her past and present lives are about to collide, sending everything she has worked so hard to achieve into freefall.

‘If you loved Killing Eve, you’ll devour Conviction.’
Erin Kelly

‘Not a single word is wasted in this beautifully written novel. Unsettling, evocative and staggeringly good, it is possibly Mina’s finest achievement.’
The Daily Express

‘A dark star of a novel, blazingly intense, up-to-the-minute fresh, and exciting as all hell’
A. J. Finn

Bitter Orange


From the attic of a dilapidated English country house, she sees them – Cara first: dark and beautiful, clinging to a marble fountain of Cupid, and Peter, an Apollo. It is 1969 and they are spending the summer in the rooms below hers while Frances writes a report on the follies in the garden for the absent American owner. But she is distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she discovers a peephole which gives her access to her neighbours’ private lives.

To Frances’ surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to spend time with her. It is the first occasion that she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes till the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled.

But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up – and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur. Amid the decadence of that summer, a small crime brings on a bigger one: a crime so terrible that it will brand all their lives forever.

‘Nothing is quite what it seems in this engrossing,moreish novel about a naïve woman and the hedonistic couple who beguile her.’
Sunday Times Culture

‘Incredibly atmospheric, vivid, and intriguing. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t reading a forgotten classic.’
Emma Healey

‘It is rare for me to put down a novel and then immediately consider re-reading it to see what cleverness I might have missed. This time, though, I am tempted.’
Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times

‘With shades of Brideshead and Manderley, Claire Fuller’s atmospheric third novel plays a satisfyingly unpredictable game with reader expectations.Prepare to be meticulously unsettled and horribly enthralled.’
Country Life


Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope I’ve been a devilish influence on your book-buying decisions for the summer … I’d love to hear which of these books you’ll be snapping up, or which other summer escapist reads are on your radar.


3 thoughts on “sultry summer reads – the paperbacks

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