Summer Stories

By Leslie Zemeckis   |   June 13, 2023

In The Girls of Summer by Katie Bishop, do not expect a light “beach read” but rather a dark exploration of what many young women experience. On an idyllic Greek Island, 17-year-old Rachel falls hard for aloof older man Alistair – rendering her blind to his manipulation and intimidation of the girls working for him. Dual timelines tell the story of a Rachel then and a Rachel now, as she grapples with a traumatic end to her Greek interlude. Now married, Rachel finds herself irresistibly drawn once again into Alistair’s sinister machinations as girls from the past come together to right a wrong. 

Bestseller Nancy Horan of Loving Frank returns with The House of Lincoln. The story is as much about Abraham Lincoln’s rise to power from Springfield, Illinois to the Capital, as it is about the political and social awakening of 14-year-old Ana, a Portuguese immigrant who works in the Lincoln household. Ana and her best friend, Cal, an African American, are both subjected to varying degrees of prejudice and danger. The book is a compelling read, and timely, as Horan explores how slavery divided this country – and the lasting aftermath of that division. 

“We are the circle of good that surrounds her…” quotes a character in the latest Lisa See historical novel, Lady Tan’s Circle of Women. Yunxian is born into an aristocratic family in 15th century China. Raised and educated by grandparents that are both doctors, Yunxian hopes to continue treating female patients. Once married, though, she is expected to give up her practice and settle into a more confining lifestyle. Author See celebrates female friendships and their transportive power by surrounding Yunxian with a circle of women who support her through years of tragedy and triumph. Allowed to once again practice medicine, Yunxian goes on to become one of the most influential women doctors of her time. Inspired by the true story of a 15th-century woman physician in China, See’s detailed descriptions of foot binding and other customs in the Ming dynasty make this a fascinating world to dip into.

The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession” by Michael Finkel is a mind-blowing true tale of the world’s most prolific museum thief, Stéphane Breitwieser – who stole two billion dollars’ worth of antiquities and kept the plunder stored in his room in his mother’s apartment. Finkel conducted numerous interviews with Breitwieser, amongst others involved, who claimed that – over the eight years he thieved throughout Europe – he did it for the love of the object, never attempting or intending to resell his ill-gotten gains. The blatant heists were pulled off during casual museum tours with lax security. Breitwieser and his girlfriend walked out with priceless treasures thrust into knapsacks and purses, tucked into oversized jackets, and even hurriedly shoved down pants. Finkel recreates all the breath-holding details of the heists, and the psychological desire to own more and more that ultimately cost Breitwieser his freedom. 

Seventeen-year-old Abbas has a unique talent as a woodcarver. These skills lead him to an apprenticeship with an alcoholic French clockmaker, who is in turn commissioned by the Sultan to carve a giant automaton of a tiger attacking a British soldier. Tania James’ dynamic new novel, Loot, sets Abbas’ story in 18th century India. The action spans across India, France, and England, as Abbas seeks to recover the automaton after it is stolen by the British. With sly humor and quirky characters, James gives us a glorious adventure while asking the larger question; who really owns art? The real automaton on which the story is based can be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. 

What if once a year, on your birthday, you were erased from the memories of everyone who had ever met you? What if parents, employers, lovers, and friends suddenly remembered nothing about the past year they spent with you? That is the problem posed by author Michael Thompson in How to Be Remembered. Given up as a baby because his parents simply don’t recall ever having a child, Tommy is placed in foster care, where he grows up understanding the inevitable day when his birthday rolls around, and he must start his relationship over again. And again. This story will pull at your heartstrings when Tommy falls in love and seeks a way for his beloved to remember him.

In 1942, Hazel leaves her home in Kansas to work for Douglas Aircraft as a “Rosie the Riveter” – a female worker for the defense industry during World War II. She excels at her work, and is despondent when the war ends and the men return from overseas to take her job. In Nicola Harrison’s Hotel Laguna, Hazel accepts a job as assistant to a cantankerous artist living in Laguna Beach. She falls for a local bartender there, all the while struggling to find her place in society. Should she inhabit that day’s  traditional female role, or should she pursue her dream of one day flying airplanes? Hotel Laguna perfectly captures a magical moment on a Southern California beach where dreams are golden.  


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