Summer Fiction Round Up – Part II (Late Summer)

So Labor Day has come and gone, just like that. The school year has started, nights are crisp, you get the picture. I already saw a tree with orange leaves last week. I have no words for this. So, as we transition into fall, I’ve compiled the rest of my summer reading list. These books wind down the sunny and social pace of summer, take things a little slower, and give pause to mull things over. The more serious side of the summer fiction, if you will.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

I have loved Elizabeth Gilbert well before there was a certain blockbuster movie adaptation of a certain best seller. With that, I haven’t read any of her fiction, so when I saw this (relatively) new novel, I decided to take a chance. Reading tip: When a book description includes the word sweeping, you’re probably in for the long haul. It took me quite a bit of time to finish this novel; the term sweeping is indeed an accurate term. The novel introduces and follows the trajectory of the Whittaker family through the late 1700s into the 1800s, tracking them all over the globe. The story is part family saga, part botany lesson. It takes turns that leave you a little uncomfortable, a little baffled, slightly disbelieving, and pleasantly surprised.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Lahiri’s novel is unexpected, captivating, and thought-provoking. The very simplified description is that two brothers from humble beginnings are raised just outside Calcutta; one leaves to pursue advanced education in the United States. India through the 60s and beyond, in great political unrest, shapes the boys’ lives – their family, loves, and heartbreaks. As the years drift by, the novel gives weight to the idea that all anyone can do is make choices that seem best at the time, and how those choices can resonate through a lifetime.

Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Being a literature gal myself, I have a special place in my heart for F. Scott Fitzgerald. I had never read this one before, and I have to say it trumps the summer reading list in terms of darkness. The characters are interesting; women are flighty and mercurial, men are conflicted and brash, relationships are destructive. It’s a boozier and less glamorous cousin of The Great Gatsby, the jazz age without being filthy rich. It’s dark without being heavy, and while it won’t make your day sunnier, I still recommend it.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

This is an iffy one for me. Can you recommend a book, and at the same time admit you didn’t finish it? I had this on loan from the library, and quite simply, I ran out of time. Or, at least as much time and interest as I would allow without diving into $0.25 per day late fees. To condense the storyline as much as possible: Ursula, the main character keeps dying and getting reborn. The story picks up each time a handful of years before the last time she did – readers can see where some new choices lay the path for a changed future. It’s really an intriguing concept, and quite fun to read. Atkinson clearly had an enjoyable time coming with comically dark ways for Ursula to die each time. Her deaths were so gentle, so believable, even in their extremes. But alas, as much as I enjoyed the book I didn’t have time to finish it. Which I don’t think is actually a problem. Ursula lived many lives in the span of time in which I read, which was plenty entertaining the way it was.

Do you have any perennial fall favorites on your reading list? Are there texts you come back to each year?

What do you think?

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