The summer holidays are upon us. For a few weeks, you actually have time to read! Deciding which books to dedicate your precious spare time to is a big commitment. We get that. WB presents four suggestions to help you tie the knot.1) Something old – Orlando (1928)
Published in 1928, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando cannot be called recent, but its ever-topical subject matter renders it a timeless piece of modernist fiction. The novel is dedicated to Woolf’s ex-lover and lifelong friend Vita Sackville-West. Both women were members of the Bloomsbury Group, a group of writers, philosophers and artists that incorporated modern attitudes towards feminism, pacifism and sexuality in their works.
Orlando is a ‘biography’ of the immortal aristocrat Orlando, modelled on Sackville-West. The story starts in the sixteenth century and continues until the early twentieth century. To make matters even more interesting, Orlando swaps gender halfway through the novel, complicating his/her right to inherit. A unique and unmissable literary whirlwind.
2) Something new – Here I Am (2016)
After his bestsellers Everything is Illuminated (2002) and Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close (2005), Jonathan Safran Foer disappeared from the limelight. Eleven years later, he returns with Here I Am (2016), the story of an American Jewish family, set against a background of traumatic events in the Middle East. Technically, this book does not qualify as a summer read, as it won’t be published until September. However, The New Yorker published a pre-publication! Available here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/06/06/maybe-it-was-the-distance-by-jonathan-safran-foer.
3) Something borrowed – Shylock is my Name (2016)
Six years ago, Howard Jacobson won the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question (2010). For his newest novel, he draws inspiration from the great William Shakespeare. This year marks the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. As part of the jubilee, the Hogarth1 Shakespeare Project will publish 6 modern retellings by acclaimed authors2. Jacobson’s novel, the second in the series, is a retelling of The Merchant of Venice (1605) in which Jacobson attempts to shed light on and give depth to the villainous Shylock. A definite must-read!
4) Something blue – Blå Stjärnan (2015)
Blå Stjärnan (The Blue Star) is the newest book in the “Great Century” series – a history of the twentieth century. The series tells the story of the Lauritzens, three Norwegian brothers from a poor fishing village who share an incredible talent for art and engineering. They are granted a first-class education by a charitable society that hopes their talents will contribute to a bright future for their county. But that is when the Great War comes in and changes everything.
This fifth novel follows the next generation of the Lauritzen family, in particular daughter Johanne, who works as a spy for the British government in World War II. Her main mission? Saving as many Norwegian Jews as possible. Her codename? The blue star.
Good news: all the books in the series can be read separately! Even better news: English and Dutch translations available.
1The Hogarth Press was founded in 1917 by none other than Leonard and Virginia Woolf. #leitmotif
2In order of publication: The Winter’s Tale (2015), The Merchant of Venice (2016), The Taming of the Shrew (2016), The Tempest (2016), Macbeth (2017), Othello (2017), King Lear (2018) and Hamlet (2021).