7 Books About British Summer That Are So Nostalgic You'll Immediately Want To Run For The Beach
With the summer in full-swing, there's nothing quite like hotfooting to the park or seaside, with a good book in tow. And if you're looking for something to catch the mood, then why not read one of these fabulous books about British summer? With novels set beneath the shade of Scottish trees, books found on the shingle-lined beach of the south coast, and stories set in vintage cars whizzing across the country, these fantastic tales are sure to capture your imagination.
One thing all of these stories have in common is a heady dose of nostalgia — whether for harking back to different moments in British history, or for certain nostalgic memories, such as challenging (ahem) family vacations. According to Psychology Professor Krystine Batcho, nostalgia is a powerful tool, which can be used as anything from an antidote to boredom through to being psychologically therapeutic. "My studies have also shown that people with a greater propensity for nostalgia are better able to cope with adversity," Batch told The Conversation last year, "and are more likely to seek emotional support, advice and practical help from others." So why not immerse yourself in some summer nostalgia, whether it's to beat the boredom, or something even more profound? Either way, these books will absolutely provide the perfect summer reading companion.
1. 'The Accidental' by Ali Smith
Featuring perhaps the world's worst summer holiday, Ali Smith's The Accidental tells the story of the Smart family in their Norfolk holiday home, with their uneventful break disrupted when they are joined by an uninvited guest. Amber intrudes on the family claiming her car has broken down, eventually culminating in Eve, the mother, kicking the wildly unwelcome guest out of their holiday home. Set in the early-oughts, the novel unpacks how Amber's sudden arrival profoundly effects all members of the Smart family, and is well worth a read in the sun.
2. 'The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie' by Muriel Spark
Set in 1930s Edinburgh, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie is a must-read (if you've not already) and centres around six young girls taken under the wing of their teacher. Miss Jean Brodie, describes herself as being "in her prime" (yes) and selects the most promising students to be in the "Brodie Set." These girls are given lessons beneath the shade of one of the school's trees, in art history and classical studies, alongside learning about Brodie's life and travels, and sympathies for burgeoning European fascism. We learn one of the girls will betray Miss Brodie, and the book will keep you guessing about exactly who it is.
3. 'The Remains Of The Day' by Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro's devastating novel The Remains Of The Day tells the story of Stevens, an English butler working for a Lord in a large country house, encouraged to take a summer break. He takes a "motoring trip" across the UK to see his former colleague Miss Kenton — who the novel strongly hints he loved, though was unable to act on his true feelings for. Set in the years leading towards World War II, the novel explores repressed emotions and missed opportunities, and will absolutely break your heart.
4. 'Death And The Seaside' by Alison Moore
Set during a tense run up to summer, Alison Moore's creepily uncanny Death and The Seaside tells the story of an aspiring writer, Bonnie Falls, as she approaches her thirtieth birthday and is kicked out of her family home. After her landlady, Sylvia Slythe, encourages her to pursue her writing more, the two strike up a strange friendship, and decide to take a holiday together — to the seaside. As Sylvia's interest in Bonnie borders on obsessive, the book takes a decidedly dark turn.
5. 'Brick Lane' by Monica Ali
Monica Ali's landmark novel Brick Lane explores the life of a Bangladeshi woman named Nazneen, who moves to live in London in order to marry an older man, despite only knowing two phrases — "sorry" and "thank you." Set at the heart of the Bangladeshi community in Brick Lane, this stunning novel burns with unspoken desire and makes for a headily dislocating experience as we navigate London and English life through Nazneen's eyes — in what is, unbelievably, Ali's first novel.
6. 'On Chesil Beach' by Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan's slim novel is set in 1962 and opens as a young married couple begin their honeymoon in a small Bed & Breakfast on the Dorset coast. Most of the book is about the couple attempting to consummate their marriage on the cusp of the sexual revolution, before unpacking how the night goes on to impact the rest of their lives. The novel was recently adapted into a film starring Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle.
7. 'The Go-between' by L. P. Hartley
A summer of repressed desires and class anxiety can be found in L.P. Hartley's stunning sun and anguish drenched novel The Go-between. It traces the life of Leo Colston after he finds an old diary which reminds him of summer spend with his school friend, Marcus Maudsley, on the estate Brandy Hall in the 1900s. The novel shows Leo re-contextualise his memories of this summer with his friend, looking back on the time in a new light, exploring the tail-end of the Victorian era with a decidedly critical lens.
So there you have it...seven nostalgic stories all set during long (though not always hot) British summers. Which one will you be bringing to the beach?