Summer Reading

Summer reading got started a bit late, but the season’s official end stretches past the traditional school vacation date, and I will lean on that to reach my goals. July’s book list features volumes with the word “summer” in the title.

Yesterday, on the shore of Atlantic waters, I finished Summer by Edith Wharton, relishing a re-visit to the type of books I loved to read during the long summers of my teens and twenties: Wharton, James, Austen, Alcott, Elliot, and the Brontes. Why did summer seem longer then?

Wharton’s Charity Royall–oh, the name!–plays out her summer conundrum in a pokey village at the foot of the Berkshires with a handsome stranger. I recall a Berkshire summer at that age, considering questions of sexual identity, in spirit and body, but, perhaps, with not-so-handsome. (Cryptic, I know, and why I write fiction.)

Charity’s plight is outmoded for today’s young reader (and even for mine thirty years ago) in actualities, but not in essence. As I glance the length of my 14 year old daughter beside me, golden, stretched on her towel in skimpy triangles of glistening black cloth, I wonder, “Do her questions about love reflect impulses or deliberation, or both?”

In Summer, Wharton deviates from the typical romance stories of the day and provides a less-than-happy ending. To call Charity’s fate as tragic as Lily Bart’s would be to compare North Dormer to New York, but, I’ve always preferred the quieter existence and more realistic acts of human abjection turned compassion.

Next up, Naked Summer, short stories by Andrew Scott.