Eight Books that Remind Me of Summer

Summer is receding into Autumn here in the north east corner of North America. Soon summer will be a warm fuzzy memory that one can wistfully think about when there is five feet of snow piled high on the ground. There are certain books that remind me of summer. They are not always set in the height of that particular season but they are often easy to read stories that make me relax, feel good and smile in equal measure. For me, summer is not only a season, it’s a state of mind…

Here in no particular order are eight books that remind me of summer.


1) My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell- This is the sun-drenched account of a young boy’s encounters with the natural life of the Greek Isle of Corfu. What makes these memoirs eminently readable are the hilarious descriptions of Durrell’s family. Be prepared to laugh aloud with every turned page.


2) Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome- written in a time when young English children returned from boarding school to spend summer holidays sailing around the serene water bodies of the English Lake District. There is a charm and innocence and way of living captured in these children’s books which is magically locked in time.


3) A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle- alright, technically this is not a summer specific book. However, the location plays the most important part in this ‘year in the life’ narrative and when I think of Provence I immediately think of sunshine, good wine and summer markets. The language is lovely, descriptive and yet easy to read. After you’ve read the book you feel as if you have taken a good long holiday without having moved a physical step.


4) Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie- this is not the kind of book that will give you a warm fuzzy feeling, being interlaced with murders, but it does have all the ingredients for a tremendous beach read. Set in a English seaside resort in Southern England the plot is brilliant and you have none other than the esteemable Hercule Poirot to help you along with your sleuthing.


5)An Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim- Four English women, due to their own individual reasons, escape their dreary life in London to spend a month in a rented Italian castle. The warmth and beauty of the location strikes a change in each of these women. They find themselves embracing circumstances and causes they had long given up on…


6)Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons- this is a feel good Cinderella-esque love story set in 1930s rural Essex. What sets it apart from any other frothy romance is Gibbon’s exceptionally witty writing style, her simultaneous interweaving of several plots and her sometimes very profound observations about life.


7)The Darling Buds of May by HE Bates- this book is just ‘perfick’ to read in the summer if you should choose to use Pop Larkin’s (the protagonist of the book) favorite adjective. A young tax collector comes to Pop Larkin’s Essex farm for an audit only to find himself totally carried away by the love, laughter and excesses of the Larkin family. He falls in love with Mariette, the eldest Larkin daughter, Ma Larkin’s cooking and also Pop Larkin’s philosophy of living life to the lees. The descriptions of nature, summer and especially food make this an exceptional book.


8) Something Fresh by PG Wodehouse- to end our summer feast of stories we have some of the eccentricities of Blanding’s Castle for you. The absurdities of the English aristocracy, unlikely situations, unusual characters like Lord Emsworth and his large household and the series of misadventures that assault you will have you alternatively laughing and cringing. Wodehouse as always is at his ascerbic best.

The Darling Buds of May of HE Bates


Title: The Darling Buds of May

Author: HE Bates

Published: 1958

Location of the Story: Rural Essex, England.

Main Characters: Pop Larkin (farmer, junk dealer), Ma Larkin, their children- Mariette, Montgomery, Primrose, Zinnia, Petunia and Victoria; Cedric Charlton or ‘Charlie’ – an officer from the Inspector of Taxes.

Short synopsis of the Story: Cedric Charlton, an official from the tax payer’s office comes to the Larkin residence to question Pop Larkin on the matter of his unpaid taxes. He doesn’t get very far because the Larkins ply him with good food, drink and heartfelt hospitality and quite soon he forgets the real purpose of his visit. This is aided by the fact that he falls under the spell of the Larkin’s eldest daughter- beautiful Mariette. This is the story of a dreamy summer in the life of the Larkin’s and a glimpse into their beguiling and unconventional way of life

I was first introduced to the book The Darling Buds of May by HE Bates by an English teacher at the tender age of twelve. It seems an unusual book to assign as school curriculum to young impressionable minds. On hindsight, I consider the choice a stroke of genius. I have never read anybody like HE Bates. He has a marvelous ability to capture the art of living a full and plentiful life. He has a genius for capturing a rural scene with a few swift brushstrokes and describing the epicurean delights of food and love quite like him. Here are a few excerpts from the book.

Outside, somewhere in the yard, a dog barked and the drove of turkeys seemed to respond in bubbling chorus. Far beyond them, in broken, throaty tones, a cuckoo called, almost in its June voice, and when it was silent the entire afternoon simmered in a single marvelous moment of quietness, breathlessly.

There is a description of a typical Sunday lunch enjoyed in the garden that one should not read on an empty stomach…

Half an hour later two of the three geese were laying side by side, browned to perfection, deliciously varnished with running gravy, in a big oval blue meat dish on the table under the walnut tree. Other blue dishes stood about the table containing green peas and new potatoes veined with dark sprigs of mint, baked onions, asparagus, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and broad beans in parsley sauce. There were also big blue boats of applesauce and gravy… It was time for ice cream. Mariette rose to fetch it from the kitchen, together with a jug of real Jersey…

Bates has a wonderful raucous  sense of humor. When the Brigadier, a luncheon guest of the Larkin’s is offered a cup of tea after this hearty repast he heartily declines and thinks to himself…

The thought of tea after two plates of goose, asparagus sage and onions, ice cream, and everything else provoked in the brigadier’s stomach a restless thunderstorm. He suppressed a belch of his own, Pop was not so successful and a positive bark leapt out, causing Primrose to say. ” I love sage and onions, You keep having a taste of it all afternoon. And sometimes all night too.”

The book is low on plot. Nothing really seems to happen and if it does, it seems to occur in a somnambulant food-coma induced slow-motion. But the anecdotes are so humorous, the descriptions are so lovely that I at least, don’t mind. I want to be taken to the land of the Larkins and share their summer delights, eat their food and savor their enjoyment of the simple pleasures of life. Everything here, in the words of Pop Larkin, is just ‘Perfick’.

Adapted from a poster designed by Treena Robinson

Adapted from a poster designed by Treena Robinson

Week Nineteen 2015- A Library Haul and Other Musings

FullSizeRender-2Week Nineteen was packed full of events and books. We celebrated multiple birthdays in our small family and there was lots of cake and good food. I made a pasta drenched in lemons, olive oil, thyme, parsley, garlic and with Italian sausage and red peppers. It was based on a recipe from Laura Vitale who is a great favorite in our household. Our chocolate birthday cake had pastel colored  tiny sugary confetti on it that Little M called ‘little M and M’s’.

On Mother’s Day we visited Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, which is an outdoor historical museum showcasing some authentic period houses that have been moved from their original locations to OSV. Actors dress up in period costume and tell stories of their past. We badgered them with numerous questions, especially in the  village store selling merchandise of all kinds. Being particularly interested in the stationery and art supplies of the day I was fascinated to find an old watercolor set which would have been popular- perhaps with young ladies painting botanical illustration. Here it is. Isn’t it beautiful?


Back to the Library Haul. Little M enjoyed Fraggle Rock recently. I decided to pick up the Complete Season 1 of Fraggle Rock along with a book. The book is more like a comic strip and a little too advanced for Little M. Nevertheless she is having a good time looking at the pictures.

Recently I enjoyed re-reading the Darling Buds of May by HE Bates. I decided to pick up the dramatization of the various books. It features stellar performances from the inimitable David Jason as Pop Larkin, Pam Ferris as Ma Larkin and a very young Catherine Zeta-Jones as Mariette.

I had requested a vintage crime novel  from the library by John Dickson Carr called the Mad Hatter Mystery. It came in this ancient omnibus edition. Looking forward to my first book by this acclaimed master of the locked room mystery.

Lastly, Emma: A Modern Retelling was lying on the new book shelves at the library. I have too many books to finish at the moment but I could not resist picking this up. McCall Smith is one of my favorite modern day writers. I wonder what he will do with Austen’s masterpiece?

I leave you with some pictures of Old Sturbridge Village and an entry in my art journal.  See you next week!IMG_0807IMG_0733IMG_0738FullSizeRender-3