Friday, July 08, 2005

The books of summer

I'm on the same page with writer and bookseller Robert Gray (scroll down to the July 1 entry--he doesn't use permalinks) when he talks about "summer books":

I suppose most readers have a summer book; not a beach read, but a certain novel that defines the season for them, a novel they've read once, twice, five times or more, like a seaside cottage they return to year after year.
He goes on to describe J. L. Carr's A Month in the Country, which is his summer book. It sounds wonderful, but his post made me long to dig out my own summer book, Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs. I don't read it quite every summer, but to me it's definitely a book to be savored with a tall glass of iced tea and perhaps a handful of cherries.

Penned in 1896, The Country of the Pointed Firs isn't so much a novel as a collection of vignettes and some wonderful character studies. The book is narrated by a young woman writer who spends the summer in a coastal village in Maine, and it's all about community, particularly the friendships of women. My favorite character is the 86-year-old woman who lives on an island all by herself.

Here--taste this scene in which the narrator has rented an empty schoolhouse to work on her writing undisturbed:

An hour later I was busy at my work. Now and then a bee blundered in and took me for an enemy; but there was a useful stick upon the teacher's desk, and I rapped to call the bees to order as if they were unruly scholars, or waved them away from their riots over the ink, which I had bought at the Landing store, and discovered to be scented with bergamot, as if to refresh the labors of anxious scribes. One anxious scribe felt very dull that day; a sheep-bell tinkled near by, and called her wandering wits after it. The sentences failed to catch these lovely summer cadences. For the first time I began to wish for a companion and for news from the outer world, which had been, half unconsciously, forgotten.

If you'd like to sample a chapter or two, you'll find the novel's entire text is online at Page by Page Books.

That's my summer book. What's yours?

Coffee break not over yet? Good, because here's something else for you to read:

My monthly column is up today at
Romancing the Blog.


Julana said...

My mother had _Country of the Pointed Firs_. Wish I still had it. I didn't get through it,when I was young.
My summer books are Jan Karon's Mitford series, and Madeleine L'Engle's Crosswicks trilogy.

Brenda Coulter said...

Give Pointed Firs another try, Julana, now that you're older. It's a delightful book.

Anonymous said...

I've racked my brain to think if I had a summer book, and I guess I don't. There are books I reread, but it's season-dependent. I feel kinda sad I don't have a fave summer book. Sniff.

I think if I had one, it would probably be THE LITTLE PRINCE or something else in the fantasy genre. Summer was a dreaming time, I guess.

Wait, I do remember that summer, when I was a teen, seemed to have been a "gorge on gothics" time--like Holt. That didn't endure. It was a phase.