Here’s This Common Reader’s book list for beach reading this summer.
For the guys. On summer break between my junior and senior years at college, I was introduced to George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series by a friend who wore a Prince Albert beard and dated a beautiful woman of middle-eastern heritage. While reading the series, I imagined the couple as time travelers visiting me from the 19th century English colonies of India and Afghanistan where Englishman Harry Paget Flashman skirmished with the locals.
Flashman, the Captain Jack Sparrow of the 11th Regimen of the Light Dragoons, is a bully, a rogue, a scalawag and defiler of women. In other words the most stereo-typical rendition of the naughty English gentleman there is. But at the end of each story, somehow and not by his own cunning, Flashman lands as hero and liberator. Unlike Captain Jack Sparrow, Flashman rarely risks life or limb to save others. He is an ‘all for oneself’ kind of guy.
Fraser’s character was inspired by a younger Flashman in Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown’s School Days. Some say that Tom Brown’s School Days also inspired J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, but I digress.
Like James Bond, Flashman was a man’s man and misogynistic to a fault. Perhaps this is why Hollywood hired his creator to pen the screen play for the Bond movie Octopussy. Guys, this one’s for you.
For the girls. If the beach trip is for two weeks, lucky you; consider the thousand page paper weight Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor (published in 1944 and labeled as scandalous). The Ruler of Romance Barbara Taylor Bradford touts this book as the standard of measure for all things hot and steamy in merry ole 17th century England.
For shorter trips to the beach consider The Late, Lamented Molly Marx: A Novel by Sally Koslow. Ms. Koslow uses her skills as a ladies’ magazine editor to pen a nosegay about the transcendence of all kinds of love. Her prose is as rich as any cheese cake or ice cream sundae you’ll have while on vacation.
For the weekender, take up Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan’s Beyond Heaving Bosoms. Reading its subtitle requires no explanation of what the book is about: The Smart Bitches’ Guide To Romance Novels. Girls, stay under the umbrella and happy reading.