My sister gave me three books for my birthday this year and they’ve made for some enjoyable summer reading since. First up was Love Falls by Esther Freud, which was an absolute pleasure to read. I got into it on page one and stayed into it all the way through. It’s set at the beginning of the 1980s when a teenage daughter agrees to go on holiday to Italy with a father she hardly knows. From getting on the train, crossing by ferry in those days, and then travelling by train across Europe, you follow Lara and her father on their adventure. It’s well written and there is mystery to the characters, which means you keep going, wanting to discover more. Reading the descriptions of a sun-soaked Italian summer whilst in the midst of a rainy English one made me feel like I was lying by the pool sunbathing with Lara. This novel is part love story, part a story of a father and daughter getting to know each other and part a meditation of being young and on being middle aged. It really is very good indeed and ended just where it should have done, leaving this reader wanting more.
Secondly, The Glitter and the Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan was an extremely interesting insider perspective on life in the gilded cage of extreme wealth and English aristocracy in the early 1900s. It’s written from someone who found happiness late in life reflecting back on being forced by her mother to marry the Duke of Marlborough and having to move to England from America to become mistress of Blenheim Palace. Consuelo’s eventual marriage to the Frenchman Jaques Balsan was as happy as her first marriage was unhappy, and she ended up living in France before having to flee at the beginning of the second world war, where her autobiography ends. It’s a fascinating look at life for the ruling class before the first world war and in the interwar period and I was again left wanting more – particularly to know what happened to Consuelo during the rest of the war once she had fled France.
Thirdly and finally was My Beautiful Friend by Elena Ferrante, book one of the Neopolitan Novels. I was excited about reading this as realised that if I enjoyed it, it would give me a whole set of new books to read. But whilst it is a very clever book, unusual and very well written, I just didn’t get into it. I think it was because I just wasn’t interested enough in the inner lives of children to read a whole book set in childhood. Nevertheless I’m glad I gave it a go and it means I can get to the rest of the books on my reading list more quickly, now that I’m not going to be adding a whole new set.