I don’t know whether the usual summer reading challenge will be up and running this year, but I’ve been planning my reading for the next two and a half months. I like to keep a little wriggle room, so I’m factoring in alternatives and extras, depending on how the reading goes. You’ll recognize that the motherhood theme remains dominant in places, but the unifying factor is modern classics.
Sons and Lovers – D. H. Lawrence.
A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway, and also A Farewell to Arms, or The Sun Also Rises. Not sure which just yet.
Fanny Fern – Ruth Hall and/or The Story of Avis – Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. Both are nineteenth-century American writers with feminist inclinations telling the stories of women who defied convention and their husbands and the limitations of motherhood to attempt careers as artists.
Terms of Endearment – Larry McMurtry or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith.
Mother, Missing – Joyce Carol Oates. A novel with a quasi-thriller plot in which a daughter investigates the murder of her mother.
Five non-fiction classics:
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down – Anne Fadiman. I really want to read this but this story of a Hmong child with epilepsy, caught between the world of Western medicine and her parent’s traditional therapies is far more medical than I’m really comfortable with. I’m hoping the story will help me transcend the detail.
Bad Blood – Lorna Sage. One of the classic dysfunctional family memoirs.
The Silent Woman – Janet Malcolm. Biography of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.
Lost in Translation – Eva Hoffman. The Holocaust forces the young Eva to emigrate with her family to Canada.
Essay selection – from the writings of Elizabeth Hardwick, George Saunders, Adam Phillips, Siri Hustvedt and the wonderful Joan Acocella.
Five pure pleasure reads
Consequences – Penelope Lively.
Love Falls – Esther Freud. I really enjoyed her previous novel, The Sea House. This is one of those teenager on holiday in Italy becomes embroiled with exotic family novels.
Old Filth – Jane Gardam. She deserves to be better known than she is. This is the story of an international lawyer with a practice in the Far East who was brought up in the last days of the Empire.
The Tenderness of Wolves – Stef Penney.
The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield and/or A Complicated Kindness – Miriam Toews.
Five French Novels
L’Acacia – Claude Simon. Simon’s family memoir which he wrote ‘as if in a trance or dream-like state’ in order to capture the vivid yet fragmentary nature of memory.
Le Paysan de Paris (Parisian Peasant) – Louis Aragon. Classic Surrealist text in which Aragon strolls around Paris contemplating the eccentricities of the modern world.
Le Livre des nuits (The Book of Nights) – Sylvie Germain. Magical realist novel following the fortunes of the Péniel family in deepest, darkest France.
Les Anges mineurs – Antoine Volodine. An up and coming French novelist who writes strange dystopian fiction with clear influences from Beckett and Kafka. He’s pretty amazing, in fact, and this end-of-the-world novel promises the best of his outlandish imagination.
Palafox – Eric Chevrillard. The fable-like tale of the adventures of a small animal that may or may not be a walking egg. Hints of Borges.
And what will you be reading this summer, blogging friends?