The warm weather has arrived so here at Seren we’ve been thinking about books for your summer break. Which titles do we recommend stuffing into your suitcase? Read on to find out our top picks.
1. Swimming on Dry Land, Helen Blackhurst
Set in the blistering Australian outback, Blackhurst’s writing is so vivid that even if (like us) you’re experiencing mild Welsh weather, you might start to feel the prickling heat she conjures.
Swimming on Dry Land tells the story of the Harvey family, who move to the fictional mining town of Akarula in outback Australia in search of paradise, and instead find deceit, mystery and superstition. Georgie, the youngest, is missing – and she’s not the first to vanish into the landscape. As the family searches for their lost daughter, their dream-like vision of life in Akarula collapses around them. And as the history of the landscape unfolds, new possibilities and answers to the mysterious disappearances slowly suggest themselves.
2. The Road to Zagora, Richard Collins
After he is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, Richard Collins decides to see as much of the world as possible while he still can. India, Nepal, Turkey, Morocco, Peru, Equador and even our very own Wales – Collins travels to them all, taking each day as it comes, accompanied by his partner Flic, as well as ‘Mr Parkinson’. Leaving the tourist trails, they visit places of extremes: the Himalayas, rainforests, deserts. The difficulties of rough terrain, altitude, extremes of climate for a person with Collins’ condition are an ongoing strand of his narrative; but although the hardships aren’t ignored, any sentiment or self-pity is denied through Collins’s resolute and independent-mindedness.
The Road to Zagora is dramatic, honest, and at times humerous too. Collins has written a memorable journey around the world, and the self.
3. The Man at the Corner Table, Rosie Shepperd
In these poems the voice is one of urban sophistication; it has a merciless charm that teases and tempts us with sensual evocations of food and place.
Tastes, scents, colours and textures surprise and entice, and there is a winning insistence on detail offered with an irony that blends into satire.
Comedy, grief and loss combine like the distinct yet complimentary flavours in a dish – these poems are exquisite meals, to be devoured amidst surprising intimacies.
4. Foreign Bodies, Candy Neubert
Fresh from the UK and on an idyllic holiday in the Phillippines, Emma thinks she has fallen in love with a place, a person, and pursues the man of her dreams with a colonial zeal. But for all her poetic sensibilities, she seems unaware of the destruction she is capable of leaving in her wake.
A beautifully written first novel, Foreign Bodies explores the spaces between people, and the nature of encounters in romantic idylls on the other side of the world.
5. Dark Mermaids, Anne Lauppe-Dunbar
It is the Olympic summer so what better time to read Anne Lauppe-Dunbar’s gripping thriller, Dark Mermaids, which tells a shocking yet enduringly familiar story of the horrors of a political system that doped its youngsters to sporting superhero status, and then left them to fend for themselves.
Dark Mermaids follows West Berlin police officer Sophia as she is called to investigate the murder of her childhood friend Käthe. The search for Käthe’s killer draws Sophia back into her abusive past as a child swimming star in the former GDR, and as the web of half-remembered horrors starts to unravel, those close to Sophia begin to take notice. There are some who still have much to hide, and they will go to great lengths to stop their secrets from surfacing.
Dark Mermaids was shortlisted for the Cross Sports Book Awards, 2016.
6. The Roots of Rock, Peter Finch
From 1950s Cardiff suburbia to modern-day America and beyond, Peter Finch follows the trail of twentieth century popular music. The Roots of Rock: from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back mixes musical autobiography with an exploration of the physical places from which this music comes.
Finch gives us sharp-eyed accounts of gigs from Champion Jack Dupree to the Garth Mountain Boys, muses on the importance of the Dansette record player, ponders why Elvis never came to Wales (except multiply in Porthcawl’s legendary Elvis Festival), visits musical shrines and theme parks, and even recalls his own attempt to start a band. You’ll find all kinds of music here – everyone from Ray Charles to Taylor Swift – and each chapter is accompanied by a multi-track playlist, making this the perfect book for anyone who loves music, history, and culture.
7. A Boat Called Annalise, Lynne Hjelmgaard
Beautifully evocative of life on a sailboat, Lynne Hjelmgaard’s poems trace a journey this much-travelled author took on a sailboat to the Caribbean and back to Europe with her husband.
The couple’s relationship is poised on tensions, beautifully observed, as masculine/ feminine, the need to assert and/or withdraw in the face of the turbulent seascape. The paradise-like destination is reached and later we learn that life goes on, there is illness and loss, and in the final section, the tone becomes movingly elegiac.
Hjelmgaard’s poems are beautifully poised, full of clear-eyed and frequently humorous observations. Her work is full of sentiment without being sentimental. We hope you enjoy your trip on A Boat Called Annalise.
We hope you like our summer selections. And if you’re struggling to fit all the books that have caught your eye into your suitcase, why not explore our range of eBooks? Whether you have a Kindle, a Kobo or any other e-reader, we have a whole host of books you can download instantly. See below for the latest digital additions to our list…
Losing Israel, Jasmine Donahaye
In Losing Israel the search for her family’s past and the part her forebears played in the newly created Israel reveals unsettling knowledge about kibbutzim and land clearances in northern Israel. Challenged by this new and unwonted information, Donahaye’s notion of history and her understanding of Israel, of her grandparents and of her identity is completely transformed.
The Art of Falling, Kim Moore
“The poems of The Art of Falling are fearless. There are more good poems filling Kim Moore’s first collection than many poets will produce in a lifetime.” – Alison Brackenbury
In this startling debut, Kim Moore writes with a compelling directness and power about her life and the lives of others.
The World, the Lizard and Me, Gil Courtemanche
A novel of testament to the children caught up in the civil wars of Central Africa, The World, the Lizard and Me follows criminal invetigator Claude Tremblay as he pursues a warlord charged with creating child soldiers in the Congo.