We don’t often talk about reading on here and yet as so many of you know, it is one of my biggest pleasures in life. Some people say I read a lot. I just counted for this post and I’ve read 27 books so far this year which is almost a book a week. Given that I used to have to get through four books a week in different languages when I was doing my degree, it doesn’t seem a lot to me but I appreciate that if you’re not into reading, it will.
It’s funny because my friends are always asking me for book recommendations and yet when they do, they always preface it with “I just don’t know how you find the time.” People often seem to see reading as a selfish indulgence, as though you’re sitting with your nose in a book while small fires are burning all around you. And yet they’ll go on to chat about the latest episode of Love Island or Great British Bake Off or Strictly Come Dancing!
You see I only find the time to read because I don’t watch much TV. Something has to be really good for me to sit passively in front of a screen and watch it. I confess that I’m currently glued to Season 4 of The Affair and it is tearing me away from my books. If you haven’t seen it I envy you – go back to the beginning of season one and binge! Otherwise, when I’ve finished everything I need to do, I read at about 9 o’clock for an hour and then usually for another half hour before I go to sleep.
Anyway, seeing as so many people have been asking me for recommendations because they want to be out in the sunshine and not sitting in front of a TV, I thought I’d do a quick post including some of the best books I’ve read this year. Here are a few good reads to see you through the summer. They’re light pick-me-up, put-me-down books for sultry days and nights when it’s hard to concentrate on anything more meaty.
6 great summer reads
This is my favourite book of the year so far, a voyeuristic insight into a marriage as it starts to disintegrate under the pressures of bringing up a young family whilst maintaining a London lifestyle and all that it entails. I defy anyone not to have one of those cringing “I remember feeling like that” moments.
What particularly fascinated me though was that one of the characters helps you to see middle class, professional British life from a non-white perspective. Despite the fact that he is second generation, born and brought up in London with a university education, it shows how his everyday reality differs from that of a white British perspective.
Ordinary People takes you straight back to the sometimes visceral struggle of bringing up small children and also the difficulty of balancing career and commuting with the urge for a fulfilled life in London. I couldn’t put it down and if I could give you all one book to read this year, it would be this one.
Fundamentally a novel about love in all its forms – romantic love, platonic love and family love. Set in Oxford between 1970 -1990, it is a story of two parts, each told by one of the male protagonists. It takes you back through the horror of the AIDS crisis of the 80s and does a really good job of encapsulating the sense of shock that we all lived with. It’s a short book that is beautifully written and largely set in summer. It makes you think about the boundaries of love and how they can blur, not only between men and women but also between men and men… and mothers and sons.
This is translated from French although you could read it in the original. It’s a pacey story of a French-Moroccan lawyer who is keen to step back into her career if only she can find a good (affordable) nanny to look after her two small children. She does… but is the nanny too good to be true? I really enjoyed the insight into a young family’s daily life in Paris and it was good to compare it with the London lifestyle that so many of us know well.
Lullaby does a great job of describing the sometimes mind-numbing frustration of being at home with young children as your former life seems to roll on without you. It also acutely depicts the instinctive conflict of the mother:nanny relationship… which in this case unravels to a chilling end.
4. Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
Another story about families, this time set in Ohio and focusing on the challenges that come as children hit their teens. It touches on mixed race identities as a clear symbol of the sense of alienation that teenagers often feel. For me it was powerful because as the story unravelled, it showed just how dangerous parental pressure can be. And how hard teenagers try to meet their parents’ expectations until they reach the point where they’re pushed too far.
This is probably the best thriller I’ve read so far this year. Set in the London suburbs, a woman is walking along her road at the end of a day’s commute only to see a new family moving into her house. The thing is that she hasn’t sold it… but where is her husband… and her children… and where have all her belongings gone to?
Great insights into modern day marriages, families and friendships and filled with plausible twists that will keep you turning the pages.
Another book that I really loved. The story of a marriage told backwards so that it begins with the end and goes back to the beginning. Knowing the ending makes the whole story incredibly poignant as you unravel what happened and why. It makes you think about long and happy marriages, how they endure and what it takes to stay together through the bad times as well as the good. Even though it’s sad, this is a feel-good story about just how good a good marriage can be.
A competition winner
And now I have an apology. With all of my rushing around, I realise that I completely forgot to announce the winner of my competition. If you remember, I asked everyone who ordered a Ça Va T-shirt to have a look at my new logo which is stamped on the inside and tell me two things:
The inspiration behind it and what I was trying to convey. For everyone who hasn’t seen it, here it is so that you can have a go before I explain.
So, let me tell you how it came about. I spent weeks with my marketing head on, doing ‘blue sky thinking’ to try to ‘see the big picture’ (the joys of bulls**t bingo)!
As you know, ultimately I would like to build a capsule of perfect pieces. It may take years, it may never happen, but the success and positive feedback on the bags and t-shirts has been really encouraging.
For me, the most important elements will be cut, cloth and colour. I want everything to be made to a high standard and with great attention to detail. One Saturday afternoon I was working away on ideas for brand names, coming up with things and then checking to see if they were already registered and whether the url was taken. I was getting nowhere and so I decided that I was going to have to build what would effectively be a new word. However it was important to me that it still had meaning and a bit of a twist.
I thought about how I wanted people to feel when they received one of my products and I knew I wanted it to be love at first sight. The way that my mind always works is to translate things into the languages that I speak and so of course ‘coup de foudre’ came straight to my mind which is the French for a bolt of lightening but most often used for love at first sight.
I was playing around with it when something struck me. If I reversed the lettering to fou de coudre, I would have ‘mad about sewing / stitching’ which would encapsulate the importance of the workmanship that goes into my products. I tested it quickly on some French friends who immediately loved it. The url was available and nobody had registered the brand name so we went straight ahead and did it. And so the next step is to launch my shop in its own right as Foudecoudre rather than as an extension of Midlifechic. This summer we’ll be busy going through everything that that entails.
So thank you to everyone who entered, quite a few of you got one half of it right but missed either the love or sewing connection. The most detailed reply was this one from Anne Chevalier who wrote:
“I’m so pleased with the Ça Va? T-shirt – fresh, modern, easy, good cut and quality fabric – and just a little outside the usual thing I would normally buy – brilliant!
So, foudecoudre – literally, mad for sewing – crazy for clothes, passion for fashion! (bit cheesy that one) I suggest it relates to your absolute love of women’s clothing – how garments are put together, styled, quality of fabric, cleverness of cut and how they reflect current trends in a considered way. It’s also about clothes that work well, “earn their place” in your wardrobe and make you feel good when wearing them.
I kept seeing coup de foudre (memories of French many years ago!) – a bolt of lightning or love at first sight – when looking at the letters so maybe a play on those letters? Certainly I sometimes feel that when I see some items you feature in your blog!”
Anne you did a better job than I did, thank you – your petit prix is on its way. In the meantime thank you to everyone who joined in the fun. And thank you to everyone who has supported me in getting this far – it’s all very exciting and I wouldn’t be doing it without all of your encouragement and warm words.
Hush have just added new lines to their sale here so it’s worth popping over, plus there are further reductions on items that were already marked down.
Baukjen’s sale has just gone to 70% off here and there are some amazing bargains for such high quality clothing. I am sitting on my hands!
Disclosure: 6 great summer reads is not a sponsored post
Spring / Summer style and beauty posts
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