Good summer reads selected by Richenda Miers
How to Measure a Cow
Margaret Forster ( Chatto & Windus, £16.99)
Margaret Forster was a realist who saw beyond the fences people erect around themselves. Tara Fraser becomes Sarah Scott to escape her past and, in the process, perhaps, discovers herself. Following her quest, I found this book, the author’s last, compulsive reading—and was left hopeful.
Olivia & Sophia
Rosie Milne ( Monsoon, £8.99)
A clever portrait of Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore, seen through the fictitious diaries of his two besotted wives. Between the lines, we see his faults as well as his strengths and learn much about the east India Company’s role in ‘The eastward’. Intrepid Sophia learns the true character of her predecessor, Olivia, through gossip.
Graham Swift ( Scribner, £12.99)
Jane Fairchild, now in her nineties, started life as a foundling dumped on orphanage steps in 1901, became a housemaid and is now an acclaimed writer. her story radiates from a clandestine couple of hours spent with her upper-class lover in 1924, the culmination of which transforms her life. This enigmatic novella is deeper than it pretends to be and leaves you wondering.
Our Souls at Night
Kent Haruf ( Picador, £7.99) Two bereaved septuagenarians form a charming liaison, exchanging their life stories in a king-sized bed as they hold hands, assuaging their loneliness over many nights in a platonic but loving relationship. They extend their meetings into daily excursions and their joint future promises to be happy—however, family obligations intervene.
Coffin Road Peter May ( riverrun, £7.99)
A man is washed up on a beach in harris, almost dead, with no memory of who he is or how he got there. his only clue is a map tracing a path to the Coffin Road, which he is compelled to follow. A battered corpse is discovered—was he responsible? Global intrigue fuelled by avarice battles with integrity and we don’t know which will win until the very end. Peter May at his very best: totally gripping.
The Huntingfield Paintress
Pamela Holmes ( Urbane Publications, £8.99)
Mildred holland, wife of William, vicar of St Mary’s huntingfield in Suffolk, flaunted Victorian prejudice, donned trousers and painted the entire ceiling of her husband’s decaying church single-handed, suspended above precarious scaffolding, crippled with arthritis. The amazing results of her work can still be seen today. This excellent historical novel tells her remarkable story.