Summer Time - Reading Time

Can You Hear Me? by Elena Varvello (Two Roads) - This thriller is a perfect read for everyone who enjoys a bit of psychological depth into the characters (it reminded me a little bit of Lullaby by Leïla Slimani), likes the suspense and although he is told straight from the beginning that something bad will arrive, he needs to finish the book to find out the details. Hot summer 1978, a small town in Italy, Elia is sixteen, his father keeps disappearing in his van, his mom pretends like everything is normal, and Elia meets Anna, a mother of his new friend. And a girl goes missing. Varvello slowly untangles the stories of the inhabitants of the town, offering glimpses into the future, which only builds up on the tension, and despite the fact that the plot seemingly lacks any larger amount of action you keep reading long after midnight to find out what actually happened between Elia's father and the missing girl. Some people criticised the book for losing on its intensity in the second half of the story. But for me it has been one of the best reads of this year so far.

Conversation with Friends by Sally Rooney (Faber&Faber) - I think that I have never read a book, disagreed with the character's certain decisions but still managed to fall in love with the story as well as its author. Well, that didn't happen till a month ago when I devoured Rooney's debut novel about Frances, twenty-one years old university student and aspiring writer who tries to navigate herself in the world of adultness, passion, love and friendship. With her friend and former girlfriend, Bobbi, they perform poetry and that's how they get to meet Melissa and her handsome husband, Nick. The relationships originating from this encounter make Frances reflect on her own values and believes. Rooney knows how to write and I was hooked on by the fluidity of the story after first couple of pages. She gently explores Frances's fragility, and although sometimes I wanted to slap Frances for her attitude, thanks to Rooney's writing I was still able to understand Frances's actions. Alongside Can You Hear Me?, my new favourite book of this year (although it was published last spring).

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Corsair) - A collection of short stories by the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2016 gives voices to those who are forever stuck in between two places, two countries - the USA and Vietnam. Ranging from a young refugee, who finds himself living with a gay couple in San Francisco, to a writer who is confronted with his brother from the past, Thang Nguyen introduces characters whose stories are usually silenced. I have been on and off reading the book, sometimes finishing only one story at the time, sometimes galloping through three of them. As much as I usually do not enjoy short stories, this collection has been something new to me, full of originality, fragility and mainly, humanity (maybe Trump should try reading it...?).

Darling by Rachel Edwards (4thEstate) - This thriller tries to deal with many pressing questions of our times - racism, mental health, sexual assault. When Darling, a nurse, marries Thomas, a perfect guy, she believes that she will live happily ever after with her new husband and her son from the previous relationship. But Thomas's teenage daughter, Lola, is not please at all with her dad's choice. Not that she is racist, as she claims, but since when does her dad have a thing for black women? The opening pages of the story immediately reveal that in the end one of the narrators, Darling and Lola, will die. The question that remains to be answered is then who and why? Edwards knows how to build up the tension by combining two strong-minded female narrators who share with the reader their points of view on the situation - Darling, desperately trying to please Lola, while Lola attempting to both find her place in the cruel world of high school and, at the same time, hating on her new stepmom. Set right after the results of the Brexit Referendum, Edwards reflects on the divided society, racially motivated attacks, fear as well as far right political parties. The final twist in the story left me grasping for air, yet it also caused that my final impression was slightly changed by it. Because from the second half of the book the plot starts mixing more and more themes together, which makes all of them fall flat. I definitely want to read more books by Rachel Edwards as she has the talent to create a gripping story with a surprising twist. But next time I would prefer to follow only one or two major themes so the story would have even greater impact.

Next on my reading list...

Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman (Atlantic Books) - I watched the film based on the book, which made me to buy the novel everyone was talking about last year. Set in Italy, the narrator's parents invite into their summer house a researcher who could help with the father's work while also finishing his own papers. What seemed to be nothing but another six weeks quickly turns into the summer full of passion, fear, intensity and new desirous. I can only imagine that the book will be even better than the actual film.

History of Wolveby Emily Fridlund (W&N, Orion Publishing Group) - I have been planning on reading this book since it was shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2017. The reader follows the story of fourteen-year-old Linda in northern Minnesota, who is bored with her current life. So when a young family with a little boy Paul moves in, she is excited. Yet, something does not seem to be completely right...

The Shortest History of Germany by James Hawes (Old Street Publishing) - I enjoy reading books that also teach me something new, and this seems to be an ideal educational book for this summer. Starting back in 500 BC and ending in 2017, the author takes a look on some of the key dates in German history.