Monday, May 16, 2011


Many years ago, I read a slim little book called A Month in the Country, by J.L. Carr. It’s about a World War I soldier hired for the summer to restore an ancient mural in a village church. It’s on the depressing side: none of the characters are on track for a happy life at the last page. But what makes the book memorable is its flawless evocation of summer. So flawless that I’ve read the book more than once—and I’m one of those readers who like escapism and humor. I can’t remember any particular passage, but sitting here at my keyboard I can recall the book’s summer: endless sun, blue skies, the drone of bumblebees, the scents of earth and grass, the feeling that my entire self, body and mind, is in Paradise.

“The Harlequin Tea Set,” an Agatha Christie short story, almost captures summer this way. Liz Michalski’s novel, Evenfall, also has moments of pure summer—eating peaches warm and ripe from the tree, basking in the sun in an overgrown orchard.

I live in the Northeast US—winter lasts a long, long time here. So it’s no surprise that I favor summery books. Even the one sort-of-winter book that I’ve always loved—The Snowstorm by Beryl Netherclift—isn’t really about snow. The title refers to one of those glass balls you shake to make “snow” fly around a scene inside. (There is a real snowstorm at the end, and the book is one of the better time-travel novels I’ve read.) There’s also Robert McCammon’s Swan Song. He creates nuclear winter so well that the first time I read it, I kept looking out the window to make sure the world was still green.

I scanned my bookshelves for a spring book, and found none. I do have a favorite autumn book: The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope. That’s it—one book—even though Hallowe’en is my favorite holiday. (That’s a post for another time, and a discussion of movies that scare the pants off you. Love ‘em.)

I love to write in the summer. My laptop screen can’t compete with sunshine, so I take my three-ring binder and fountain pen and sit in my backyard. Grass between my toes, iced tea at my side, red-winged blackbirds (among many others) calling in the trees, and katydids everywhere. Yet I’ve written all different kinds of weather into chapters on those days. I’m weird like that. This is also one of my favorite places to read.

Is there a book on your shelves that epitomizes your favorite season? My TBR pile in only 6 books deep at the moment. It needs to grow—after all, summer’s only a few weeks away.

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