Summer in literature

I’m indebted to the BBC’s Books and Author’s podcasts, for giving me the idea for this blog. They recently ran a feature on summer, and its depictions in literature. It struck me just how different the summers in these various locales must be, since the descriptions vary so much, yet are all very evocative. It also occurs to me that the authors of the past took their time in describing long summer days. The more recent writers have to try and condense it for us – maybe our attention span has gone. Here are some of the authors they mentioned- which summer appeals to you most? By the way, if you have any favorite excerpts, let me know and I’ll add them.

 Summer – Edith Wharton

It was the beginning of a June afternoon. The springlike transparent sky shed a rain of silver sunshine on the roofs of the village, and on the pastures and larchwoods surrounding it. A little wind moved among the round white clouds on the shoulders of the hills, driving their shadows across the fields and down the grassy road that takes the name of street when it passes through North Dormer. The place lies high and in the open, and lacks the lavish shade of the more protected New England villages. The clump of weeping- willows about the duck pond, and the Norway spruces in front of the Hatchard gate, cast almost the only roadside shadow between lawyer Royall’s house and the point where, at the other end of the village, the road rises above the church and skirts the black hemlock wall enclosing the cemetery.

The little June wind, frisking down the street, shook the doleful fringes of the Hatchard spruces, caught the straw hat of a young man just passing under them, and spun it clean across the road into the duck-pond.

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Maycomb was an old town but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop, grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three o”clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.

People moved slowly then. They ambled across the square, shuffled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything. A day was twenty-four hours long but seemed longer. There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to but it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County.

Summer Lightning – PG Wodehouse.

Blandings Castle slept in the sunshine. Dancing little ripples of heat-mist played across its smooth lawns and stone-flagged terraces. The air was full of the lulling drone of insects. It was that gracious hour of a summer afternoon, midway between luncheon and tea, when nature seems to unbutton its waistcoat and put its feet up.

In the shade of a laurel bush outside the back premises of this stately home of England, Beach, butler to Clarence, ninth Earl of Emsworth, its proprietor, sat sipping the contents of a long glass and reading a weekly paper devoted to the doings of Society and Stage…At this moment, the laurel bush, which had hitherto not spoken, said “Psst!”

Fin & Lady – Cathleen Schine

Even as an adult, Fin would remember that moment, the harsh sunlight, the circle of crumbly buildings, the cry of the gulls overhead, the smell of coffee, the scent of perfume, and the eyes of his new sister, a young woman in a white dress, those dark eyes. He turned his own eyes away, conscious suddenly of a feeling so overwhelming it made him shy….Three strange, wonderful days for Fin. The town was full of steps and alleys. Enormous lemons hung on vines. The beach was tiny, the harbor full of brightly painted boats. There were dolphins one day. The sun was high and hot. Children kicked a ball in the piazzetta. A bell rang. And he was with Lady.

Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell

The heat, the heat. It wakes Gretta just after dawn, propelling her from the bed and down the stairs. It inhabits the house like a guest who has outstayed his welcome; it lies along corridors, it circles around curtains, it lolls heavily on sofas and chairs. The air is like a solid entity filling the space, pushing Gretta down into the floor, against the side of the table.

Only she would choose to bake bread in this weather.

Stay cool!

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