Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Western Mail | WM | Life | 2 August: Summer Reads


What are you reading this summer?

Here are my Summer Read recommendations from the WM article today (page 3)...

Ah summer, long hots days on the beach or by the pool, little to occupy your thoughts but daydreams and good books. Heaven. Unfortunately I seem to spend more of my time in far-less-glamorous wellies standing in muddy fields performing on the festival circuit for my summer holidays these days. As such my first summer read comes from a place very close to home and is packed full of rock'n'roll. Tiffany Murray's Diamond Star Halo came out last year, but has just been released in perfectly portable paperback (and Kindle) form.

It is a magical book charting the lives and loves of Halo and her eccentric family as they grow up on Rock Farm, a residential recording studio in the borderland of Wales that attracts star visitors from across the globe. The inspiration for the setting is not difficult to ascertain, Murray grew up in the infamous Rockfield Studios, established in the 1960s and inspiring the likes of Freddie Mercury, who wrote some of “Bohemian Rhapsody” there. Diamond Star Halo begins in 1977, when Halo is five years old, and Tequila, a band of American brothers, are in residence. When they depart, they leave a baby boy, Fred, "part seal-pup, part bloody Heathcliff" who demands all of Halo's heart. This is a sparkling, witty, novel that draws you into the delightfully strange world of the farm across the decades and then makes you ever so sad to leave it; exactly what I want from a summer read and, indeed, from the best of holidays.

Returning to the summers of my teenage years, I would recommend an old favourite of mine Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) as a quick yet classic read full of sunshine and shadows, lust and loss of innocence. Published in 1954 when the French writer Françoise Sagan was just 18, it was an overnight success. This seductive coming-of-age novella tells the story of 17-year-old Cécile and her unsuccessful love life as she summers with her father and his mistress in a villa on the French Riviera. To continue the musical thread, it also happens to be the book that inspired Simon and Garfunkel's song 'Sound of Silence'.


Susie Wild is the author of the award-winning short story collection The Art of Contraception (Parthian, 2010) and the Kindle ebook novella Arrivals (Parthian, May 2011), She also has some poems in the recent Nu2: Memorable Firsts anthology (Parthian, July 2011).

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