Four From '14: Great Reads From Last Summer You May Have Missed
Though summer is now in full swing, and popular (soon to be blogged about) reads have been heavily recommended (The Rocks, Local Girls, The Hand That Feeds You, Hausfrau—these are all on my list), there are a few books I read and loved last summer that seemingly slipped through the cracks.
I’ll start with the one that you’ve most likely already read, The Vacationers. I grabbed a copy of this in the airport bookstore prior to a quick vacation because I was enticed by the cover—oh, and I guess for the sake of not getting yelled at for “wasting money on books” by my mother, I should add that I also read and was fascinated by the blurb, even though that would be fictitious. It was really just the cover that drew me in. That being said, once I started the book, I was captivated by the story, if a little surprised to discover that it wasn’t as breezy and happy as your average beach read. The Vacationers is about a wealthy family from the Upper East Side that travels with some family friends to a villa in Mallorca, Spain, only to discover that the snooty and thoroughly British model, named Gemma, of course, who owns it has elected to remain there for the duration of their stay. The book details family drama and marital problems in detail and doesn’t necessarily wrap up with a happy ending. Regardless, it’s a cute book and a viable candidate for a summer read if it was not on your radar last summer.
The second book I read last summer was The Farm, my favorite summer 2014 read. Written by Tom Rob Smith, an English author allegedly most famous for his Child 44 trilogy, which I had never heard of until reading his About the Author, but which I will read as a reward once I finish Sense and Sensibility (thrillers and beach reads are, as my third grade teacher used to say, “dessert books”, only to be enjoyed after you’ve read the good stuff…but-if you can't tell by the content on Cover to Cover-I’ve always had a serious sweet tooth). The Farm tells the story of a Swedish man living in London, who plans to bring his partner back to his hometown in Sweden for a summer visit and come out for the first time, when he gets a message from his father, claiming his mother’s mental state is descending towards insanity. Just a few days later, he receives a call from his mother imploring him not to believe anything his father says, and to know that he is involved in something dangerous and potentially harmful to the family and himself. This book takes he-said, she-said to the next level, weaves in the elements of Swedish crime that I loved in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but in a more subtle way that leaves you equal parts uncomfortable and captivated throughout the story. I was upstate with my entire family when I read this and lent it to my cousin immediately upon completion because I needed someone to discuss the ending with. In the thriller-crazed era of Gone Girl-Girl On the Train-Luckiest Girl Alive, The Farm unfairly escapes recognition—it’s better than the three of them combined.
Third we have a completely different, but still beloved (by me at least) book, Courtney Maum’s I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You. Frankly, I’m shocked that this book didn’t dominate the summer 2014 bestseller lists. To me, it read like a better version of a Jonathan Tropper book, who I enjoy in moderation but find a bit abrasive (This Is Where I Leave You was funny, yes, but I would’ve chosen Maum’s book over that for a major movie adaption any day—and I bet the film executives responsible for the This Is Where I Leave You flop wished they had as well). The book is about a British artist who lives in Paris with his French wife and daughter, and needs to redeem himself after his wife discovers he is having an affair. His quest is to retrieve a painting he sold that was meaningful to his wife, in hopes of saving their relationship. The book is a page-turner that’s romantic but not overly so and, most importantly, achingly funny. If you liked This Is Where I Leave You, you’ll love this. It’s another one I’ve lent to my family members and friends to positive reviews. Stay tuned to see if this summer’s pick measure up to these ones!
Last but not least, is Liane Moriarty, who has been a favorite with me since I breezed through her charming and hilarious book The Husband’s Secret in April of 2014 (it was the perfect antidote to my Goldfinch disaster). I bought her July 2014 book Big Little Lies the day it came out. This story is a hilarious mess of a murder mystery, in which someone dies at an “Audrey Hepburn and Elvis” themed parents curriculum night. The book interweaves the stories of multiple Australian families trying to figure out the truth to hilarious (and sometimes sad) effect. This looks like a behemoth, but if you know Moriarty, you know she’s the queen of beach reads, and you’ll breeze through this one (though probably not as fast as I did, because I spent an entire afternoon ignoring everyone around me just to complete it in one sitting. I understand most people have things called jobs that prevent reading marathons of this manner). Happy reading!