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(Pat Wellenbach)
(Pat Wellenbach)

A Globe Books special

It's summer, not dumber Add to ...

PETER ROBINSON Whenever I think of summer reading, I think of those endless heady summers of adolescence, when the sun always seemed to be shining, the flowers more richly hued and the air heavy with their languid scent. For some reason, though, I associate these images with French summers rather than English or Canadian ones, though I spent only one summer in France. Still, I was 14, and it was the summer of Gauloises, boules, Francoise Hardy ... and Brigitte.

I remember some years later being transported back to that magical world when I read Alain-Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes for the first time. Rereading it not so long ago in a new translation, now called The Lost Estate, I was surprised to find that most of it doesn't take place in summer at all. Such are the tricks of memory. But it still remains a powerful and evocative summer read, perched on that wavering borderline between youth and adulthood, full of yearning and mystery, and with a beautiful girl at the centre of it all.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention another book, an English one this time, that also seems to exude summer's heat: L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between. A man in his 60s looks back on a boyhood summer he spent with a school friend's wealthy family at their country house. The boy becomes the unwitting go-between in a secret love affair between his friend's older sister and her farmer lover, carrying messages to arrange assignations and ultimately bringing about their undoing.

It is another story set in that no-man's land of vanishing innocence and burgeoning sexuality that seems so often associated with summer, though this time the narrator has the benefit of hindsight in his exploration of forbidden sex, the class system and the quirks of memory. The opening line - "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there" - remains deservedly famous, and the film version, starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates, scripted by Harold Pinter and directed by Joseph Losey, is a must-see.

Peter Robinson's most recent book is the short-story collectionThe Price of Love.

ANDREW PYPER Most of the time, summer reads are associated with either the past (the moisture-fattened paperback rediscovered on the cottage shelf) or the pulpy present (the Ludlum or Binchy grabbed before piling into the northbound station wagon). My own most memorable summer book, however, involved long page-turning sessions on the dock and by fading flashlight in the buggy evenings, but it was a book that was so new it wasn't even published yet.

I read the galleys for Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections to review for this newspaper, and it was an occasion of real excitement for me: a moving, funny, decidedly contemporary novel of importance that I, kissing beers on the sun-warmed rocks of Georgian Bay, was among the world's first to read. The review was a rave. And I hardly even noticed the horseflies when they landed on my back for lunch.

Andrew Pyper's most recent novel is The Killing Circle.

PETER STOTHARD To be read alongside what we hope are pleasant interruptions, the ideal summer book has to be readable for only a few pages at a time. But it need not be trivial. If you have only one holiday book, you can stick to it, take it slowly, and even make up your mind whether it is really as good as you once thought it was.

Eight years ago, I thought Joseph Brodsky's Collected Poems in English a wonderful thing. Yet distinguished Times Literary Supplement contributors have queried whether this rare master of poetry in two languages was instead merely a Nobel Prize-winner lucky to be a Soviet prisoner and an English hero in the same lifetime.

Was Brodsky a passionate genius whose infelicities in English are as artful as the idiomatic flow of his Russian? Or was he a clumsy surrealist who came too often too close to kitsch? In 1992, he wrote a poem to president-elect Bill Clinton that ended: "Well strike your tent and have your lunch/ Before you stir an avalanche/ Of brand-new taxes whose each cent/ will mark the speed of your descent." An artfully rhyming piece of occasional verse - or the work of a dud? This is the summer to take another look - and anyone who gets to Venice can visit his grave at San Michele too, close to that of Ezra Pound, a fellow poet who still divides us.

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