Yesterday I went on a bit of a book-shopping spree to make sure I have plenty of reading material over the summer holiday! I thought I would share with you the books that I am so excited to read this summer…
- Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.
Why I Chose It
Les Misérables is my favourite musical of all time, so I have wanted to read it for years! However, at 1,463 pages, its length has been something of a barrier. Now that I am exam free for the summer it seems like the perfect time to embark on such an epic reading quest! I am also going to reading-buddy with a friend from book club so we can help keep each other motivated. I have heard that the book examines the characters and relationships in a lot more depth than is possible in film or play adaptations, so I am very much looking forward to getting even more from this incredible story.
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.
Why I Chose It
The Goldfinch is another book that has been sitting on my shelf for far too long. It has received rave reviews from critics and writers alike, and the story sounds very unique. However, I have been hesitant about picking it up because I get a sense from the synopsis (although I may be completely mistaken) that it is one of those books that takes a while to get into, yet is worth the initial effort in the end. Now that I have the time to commit to it, hopefully, I can become completely immersed in the story.
- Half of the Human Race by Anthony Quinn
A story of love, sacrifice, suffrage and county cricket, projected against a vivid backdrop of England in the early 20th century – an extraordinary age of turmoil and violence.
Why I Chose It
Half of the Human Race is my book club’s pick for July. I love historical fiction and I love a good romance, so I am very excited to read a book which combines the two! A love story between a suffragette and “traditional” county cricket player sounds like it will have a lot of depth – I am already intrigued.
- Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Crusoe (the family name corrupted from the German name “Kreutznaer”) sets sail from the Queen’s Dock in Hull on a sea voyage in August 1651, against the wishes of his parents, who want him to pursue a career, possibly in law. After a tumultuous journey where his ship is wrecked in a storm, his lust for the sea remains so strong that he sets out to sea again. This journey, too, ends in disaster, as the ship is taken over by Sale pirates (the Sale Rovers) and Crusoe is enslaved by a Moor. Two years later, he escapes in a boat with a boy named Xury; a captain of a Portuguese ship off the west coast of Africa rescues him. The ship is en route to Brazil. Crusoe sells Xury to the captain. With the captain’s help, Crusoe procures a plantation. Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published on 25 April 1719. This first edition credited the work’s fictional protagonist Robinson Crusoe as its author, leading many readers to believe he was a real person and the book a travelogue of true incidents. It was published under the considerably longer original title The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner.
Why I Chose It
I am going to take this book on holiday with me, as a story of travel and adventure seems like the perfect companion. It is quite short and I get the impression it will be fast-paced for a book written in the 18th Century, so I have an easy opportunity to tick another classic book from my list! The fact that it was available completely free as an eBook is an added bonus as well.
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison’s nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be.
As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying “battle royal” where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison’s nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.
Why I Chose It
I discovered Invisible Man on the Goodreads List of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime and immediately added it to my want-to-read list. Not only does it sound like an essential and powerful story, but I am also interested in experiencing the unique writing style of Ralph Ellison.
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Madame Bovary is the debut novel of French writer Gustave Flaubert, published in 1856. The character lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life.
When the novel was first serialized in La Revue de Paris between 1 October 1856 and 15 December 1856, public prosecutors attacked the novel for obscenity. The resulting trial in January 1857 made the story notorious. After Flaubert’s acquittal on 7 February 1857, Madame Bovary became a bestseller in April 1857 when it was published in two volumes. A seminal work of literary realism, the novel is now considered Flaubert’s masterpiece, and one of the most influential literary works in history.
Why I Chose It
I don’t know about you, but if a book scandalised its audiences upon publication (think Frankenstein or Wuthering Heights) it makes me want to read it even more. Although I doubt the story is particularly scandalous for a 21st Century reader, I think that an exploration of how we reconcile joy, pleasure and love with duty and social expectations will still have its resonance.
Cover images courtesy of Goodreads.
Have you read any of these books and if so, what did you think? Which books do you have on your summer reading list? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you!