Four recommendations for summer reading
Janet Somerville joins us periodically on the Gulf Coast Life Book Club to tell us about some wonderful new books. Here are her latest picks. (To buy the books, click on the titles.)
Flora Harding, The People's Princess
A dual narrative featuring the newly engaged Diana Spencer in 1981, rattling around Buckingham Palace before her wedding to Charles, Prince of Wales; juxtaposed with the life of a previous Princess of Wales, Charlotte in 1813, whose life Diana reads about in an archival diary. Both struggle with the strictures of palace life. Their tragic early deaths, respectively, plunge a nation into crisis.
Eliza Knight, The Mayfair Bookshop
Another dual narrative, featuring Lucy St. Clair in 2020 who is on loan from a US library to work in special collections at Heywood Hill in Mayfair, a big Nancy Mitford fan, juxtaposed with 1938 and Nancy Mitford and her literary set including Evelyn Waugh. Takes place as Mitford is writing the novel that will make her famous, The Pursuit of Love. A delight for literary nerds.
Heather Marshall, Looking for Jane
About the safe underground abortion networks in Canada before abortion was legalized in 1988, and the maternity homes to which pregnant unwed women and widows were sent and forced to give up their babies for the church's profit. Weaves 3 generations of women together, exposing the need for ongoing reproductive health care. A startling debut.
Rachel McMillan, The Mozart Code
At the heart of this novel set in Cold War Vienna and Prague are two things: a Soviet spy network called "Eternity" that M16 operative Simon Barre and his team are trying to expose and bust... plus the blackmarket restoration of art & antiques stolen by the Nazis, focusing on the recovery of Mozart's death mask by former SOE agent Sophie Villers, aka "Starling." There are two subtextual "languages" of chess & music that propel the narrative.
Janet Somerville is a critic for the Toronto Star and the author of Yours For Probably Always: Martha Gellhorn's Letters of Love and War, 1930-1949. It is also available as an audiobook, read by the phenomenal Ellen Barkin.