Short Books Summer Reading – part 3

We asked some of our wonderful Short Books authors to tell us about their ideal summer reads. In part three of the feature there’s plenty more to occupy your sunbed time this summer!

Rose BoytRose Boyt
Author of Hows Your Father

Non-fiction: Posthumous Keats by Stanley Plumly (WW Norton)RB- Vauxhall
“This scholarly and yet intimate book of Keats’s brief life and tragic death is as compelling and daring as the best fiction. I can’t wait to read it again.”

Fiction: Vauxhall by Gabriel Gbadamosi  (Penguin)
“In this artful story of his perilous childhood in Vauxhall, Gabriel Gbadamosi leaves out everything unnecessary and with spare and truthful magic creates an irresistible world of heart-rendingly painful beauty.”

FW - ImageFrances Welch
Author of Rasputin and The Russian Court at Sea

Non-fiction: Victoria: A Life by AN Wilson (Atlantic)
“AN Wilson’s Victoria: A Life is gratifyingly sad and funny. The most moving part of it for me was the death of Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Alice, mother of the last Tsarina of Russia. She died after catching diphtheria from her ailing son, having been unable to resist giving him a consoling embrace, the ‘kiss of death’ as the then Prime Minister described it. Victoria and John Brown’s relationship has richly comic elements, not least their shared fondness for whisky. Brown barks: ‘Don’t stay thirsty’. His language is resolutely uncourtly: ‘Her Maa-dj-esty says the carriage is shaking like the Devil,’ he complained to a train guard. As I read on, I found half-known pieces of Victorian history suddenly becoming clear: the tensions within Europe’s Royal families, the Crimean War, the Battle of Rorke’s Drift.  Diverted and enlightened, I finished it with a sense of wellbeing, the best sort of holiday mood.”

Fiction: Victory: An Island Tale by Joseph ConradFW - Victory
“This book follows an unlikely romance between a ruined Swedish businessman, Axel Heyst, and a young musician, Lena, touring East Timor with a ramshackle Ladies Orchestra. Conrad has his usual beguiling cast of weird Europeans washed up in the tropics. Among these is a languorous Englishman, (‘plain Mr Jones – gentleman at large’) who will stop at nothing to locate Heyst’s non-existent treasure. Victory has been criticised for being too melodramatic, but I enjoy the melodrama, first as comedy, then as a sort of surreal escape. It is a tropical yarn, written in Conrad’s dense, poetic prose, best savoured in deranging heat.”

JS - ImageJohn Sutherland
Author of Last Drink To LA

Non-fiction: The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards (Harper Collins)JS - Golden Age of Murder
“This year I owe a particular debt of gratitude to Martin Edwards’s The Golden Age of Murder. It has a long, explanatory subtitle: ‘The Mystery of the Writers who Invented the Modern Detective Story’. In fact it’s a wonderfully replete chronicle of the writers (eccentrics all of them) who created the now antique, ‘tea-cosy’, rule governed detection novels of the English ‘Golden Age’ of Crime Writing. The elite formed a ‘Detection Club’, headed by such luminaries as G. K. Chesterton (creator of Father Brown), Agatha Christie (creator of Poirot), Dorothy L. Sayers (creator of Wimsey). Edwards has read a vast number of the cream of the crop products of the club and summarises them enticingly without, all-importantly, divulging ‘whodunnit’”

Fiction: The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope
“The best ‘new’ fiction work I have read this year is 135 years old and, in length, would comprise 15 Short Books. The Duke’s Children was the last novel in the huge ‘Palliser’ series of ‘Parliamentary Novels’. The hero, Plantagenet Palliser, now Duke of Omnium, has the kind of parent problems which haven’t, alas, changed over the last 135 years. Is it ‘new’ you ask? Yes. Trollope was persuaded to drop 60,000 words, now restored by a diligent team of American scholars. The Folio Society has put out an edition de luxe. Wait for the budget paperback. It’s one of Trollope’s best, which means it’s one of the very best novels anyone has written.”