June 17, 2007

Great Summer Expectations: a wish list of warm-weather reads

As surely as the swans return to the Public Garden it’s time for summer reading recommendations. Summer is somehow never long enough to do all the wonderful things we’ve planned. But it brings at least the illusion of leisure hours and the intention to take time to sit on a park bench or beach chair and lose ourselves in the pages of a good book. This year I’ve asked for picks from area independent bookstores.

Ellen Jarrett, marketing manager for Porter Square Books in Cambridge:
“I would recommend Mameve Medwed's latest, now in paperback, How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life. Told with wit and humor, this is the story of a single woman who finds out she is in possession of a valuable family heirloom. Skirmishes ensue which lead to the resolution of long-standing family feuds and romance.”

Amanda Darling, marketing manager of Harvard Book Store:
“One novel I've really enjoyed is The Birthdays, by local author Heidi Pitlor; it just came out in paperback. It's a superbly graceful book. The action takes place over a long weekend as a family--an aging mother and father, the two sons and their wives, and a daughter--gather at a summer house in Maine to celebrate the father's 75th birthday. Pitlor moves between the point of views of differing family members in a way that illuminates their interactions and makes you incredibly aware of what is said, and not said, to the people they love. It made me think about the challenges and joys of interconnectedness, and how small graces (the sound of the surf, the softness of a bed, the pressure of a loved one's hand) can help us get through the inevitable sorrows of life.
“I'm a sucker for mysteries -- a trait I inherited from my librarian mom. Last summer, I was delighted to discover the Homer Kelly mysteries by local author Jane Langton. Set in and around Boston, the novels are well-written, smart and funny. I especially enjoyed Murder at the Gardner and The Transcendental Murder.”

Lori Kauffman book buyer, Brookline Booksmith:
“Laurie Horowitz was raised in the Boston area and her book, The Family Fortune , about a Brahmin family is set in and around the city. Horowitz knows to borrow from the best; her story is based loosely on Jane Austen's Persuasion. I'm not going to pretend that this is a similar  classic for the centuries, but it is just right for reading in the shade with a cold raspberry lime rickey. It is the story of Jane Fortune, editor of the literary Euphemia Review, who was persuaded when she was young to give up on her love for a promising (now best-selling) author. Single and 38, she has lived with her father and older sister in their Beacon Hill home until living beyond their means forces the family to rent it out. As Jane attempts to help her family regain their equilibrium she is both reunited with her first love and enthralled by a new promising young writer. In a blurb I wrote for a staff recommendation I noted that, unlike so many chick-lit (shall we call it popular fiction?) characters who are notable primarily for their shopping skills and dumb luck, it is truly refreshing to find someone like Jane, a character worthy of being called a heroine.”

Happy reading!

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©2007 Ellen Steinbaum

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