Five sizzling summer reads – and Alice Pyne’s mug

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Sunday 24th July 2011

As MPs start their long summer recess this weekend they’ll no doubt be mulling over which books to pack along with their sun cream and swimming gear. Incidentally, why do politicians get such a long break when the rest of us have to make do with two weeks?

Many of them will no doubt be taking Mehdi Hasan and James MacIntyre’s biography of Ed Miliband, along with a couple of rising political star Louise Bagshawe/Mensch’s chick lit titles for light relief.

But if anyone, politician or otherwise, is looking for recommendations, here are five reads I’ve enjoyed hugely this summer. I’ve already raved about Alan Hollinghurst’s brilliant The Stranger’s Child, but these are some of my other favourites.

The nanny diaries: Best-known for her hilarious “Slummy Mummy” columns, Fiona Neill has now turned her attention to the trials and tribulations of the modern-day nanny. WHAT THE NANNY SAW (Penguin, £7.99) sees penniless student Ali Sparrow hired to look after a super-rich (and ultra-demanding) banking family. Charged with caring for five year old twins who speak their own private language, an anorexic teenage girl and a boy almost her own age, Ali’s on a steep learning curve – especially when a financial scandal erupts in their midst.

The tear jerker: Elizabeth Noble’s THE WAY WE WERE (Penguin, £7.99) is the story of childhood sweethearts Susannah and Rob, who break up when Susannah goes to university and Rob joins the RAF. The pair, caught up in different lives, completely lose touch. But there’s a sense of unfinished business and when they meet by chance at a wedding 20 years later, lawyer Susannah is stunned by the intensity of her feelings for Rob. What makes Noble stand out from the crowd is the quality of her writing, the deftness of her plotting and her recognition that life rarely goes according to plan.

The crime novel: Husband and wife writing team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French have turned out a cracking run of stand-alone thrillers under the name of Nicci French. But their new book, BLUE MONDAY (Michael Joseph, £12.99), is the first in a series of eight crime novels starring psychotherapist Frieda Klein. In her late 30s, Frieda’s an insomniac who walks the streets of London in the dead of night, drinks whisky and much to the irritation of her office, doesn’t own a mobile phone.

The haunting thriller: Rosamund Lupton’s first book, Sister, was snapped up by thousands of readers in 2010. She’s now followed it with AFTERWARDS (Piatkus, £7.99), the story of Grace Covey and her teenage daughter Jenny, who are both catastrophically injured in a school fire. Original and heartrending, Lupton’s second book definitely lives up to her first.

The classy read: Anne Enright’s prose flows so smoothly and eloquently that she makes writing look effortless. In THE FORGOTTEN WALTZ (Jonathan Cape, £16.99), the 2007 Man Booker winner chronicles a love affair that wrecks two marriages in modern-day Dublin. Narrated by Gina, who’s married to steady Conor but in love with the more complicated Seán, it’s a pleasure from start to finish.

PS: With its beach huts, seagulls and zingy sun umbrellas my new Emma Bridgewater mug (above) reminds me of summer. But more importantly, the story behind it is an intensely moving one. Alice Pyne, a 15 year old girl who is terminally ill, put together a “bucket list” of things she wanted to do with her life – a list read by millions around the world when it was posted on Facebook earlier this year. One of Alice’s wishes was to design an Emma Bridgewater mug – and this is the stunning result. It’s inspired by Alice’s summer holiday last year in Torquay, organised by Torbay Holiday Helpers Network (an organisation committed to running free, action-packed holidays for seriously ill children). Emma Bridgewater is donating the £10 profit from each £19.95 mug to THHN.

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