The best beach reads of 2017

EagleHeadline | July. 04, 2017

Hannah Tunnicliffe, A French Wedding

Six friends gather at Max’s house in Douarnenez on the coast of Normandy for his 40th birthday. He’s a rock star whose exhausting days on the road have left him yearning to reminisce with his university friends, especially Helen. In the course of the long weekend, Rosie’s husband Hugo bores everyone, Eddie’s new girlfriend suspects she’s pregnant, Nina and Lars’ teenage daughter Sophie falls in love, Helen’s stepsister Soleil raises awkward questions, and Max unravels. A typical reunion, with lots to drink, depicted with great charm. Adding to the novel’s delights is Juliette, a former Parisian chef, who creates mouth-watering fare like Cancale oysters, spider crab, and kouign-aamann, a local pastry. Tunnicliffe frames the book with the French wedding that evolves from the weekend, but doesn’t name the couple. It’s one of many surprises in this deftly plotted, richly detailed novel. (Credit: Doubleday)

Lawrence Osborne, Beautiful Animals

Sensuous and elegantly written, Osborne’s new novel revolves around Naomi, who has been coming to the Greek island of Hydra with her wealthy father since the days of Leonard Cohen, and Samantha, still in her teens. They drink in the local bars, where Naomi gives Sam a crash course in lesser-known Greek liquors, swim and sunbathe on remote beaches. “What beautiful animals we are,” Samantha thinks, “beautiful as panthers.” During an excursion to the far side of the island, they discover a man washed up from the sea – a refugee named Faoud. As Naomi schemes to save him, and Sam grows sceptical, Osborne adds a family drama, a surprise character drawn from the past, and a chilling denouement. A masterful and sophisticated psychological thriller that explores moral ambiguity from multiple perspectives. (Credit: Hogarth)

Ann Beattie, The Accomplished Guest

Beattie has achieved legendary stature as a master of the short story, based on her taut prose, tart wit and magical plot twists and turns. Several of the 13 stories in her new collection build up to small eruptions of violence – when a woman named Lawrence visits her parents and her “troubled” older sister Brett, when two brothers, John and Dolph, revive ancient grievances on the brink of Dolph’s wedding. Other stories include passages that are hilarious (Hoodie in Xanadu, set in Key West, stars an agoraphobic who has transformed his front room into “an enormous, vibrant, multicoloured tent” studded with tiny mirrors) and touching (in The Cloud Candace makes a rare visit to an uncle undergoing chemo). Throughout, Beattie captures the fragmented nature and frayed connections of contemporary times. (Credit: Scribner)

Cara Black, Murder in Saint-Germain

It’s late July 1999 – “nothing but heat, showers and tourists” – and Aimée Leduc is juggling new motherhood and detective work from a temporary office in the École des Beaux-Arts on the Left Bank. She’s monitoring the school’s computer security when an art history professor there hires her to track a blackmailer. Her friend Suzanne Lesage, head of an elite counterterrorism squad, asks her to work secretly to track down Mirko, a Serbian war criminal presumed dead after an explosion. Suzanne has seen him in Paris, but her team believes she’s suffering from PTSD. Then two members of Suzanne’s team are murdered, and Aimée is drawn into a labyrinth of old quarries and catacombs underneath the city. The 17th in Black’s Leduc series is an atmospheric thriller with a savvy take on international arms dealing. (Credit: Soho Crime)

Maile Meloy, Do Not Become Alarmed

Two California couples take a holiday cruise down the coast of Mexico and Central America with their young children. One day the mums take the kids on an excursion with a guide, the van has a flat tyre, it’s hit by a car, they head to a beach to wait for taxis, one mum falls asleep, the other goes into the woods with the guide, and suddenly all four children are missing, taken up-river by the tide. It’s a boldly nightmarish scenario, and the drama is just beginning. Meloy follows the two couples, their children, the brothers who ‘rescue’ them and a young migrant girl with a parallel journey, to explore complex moral choices, marital snags and the powerful forces that maintain the balance of the haves over the have-nots. (Credit: Riverhead)

Michelle Richmond, The Marriage Pact

When Alice, a former rock singer turned lawyer, marries Jake, a wedding guest gives them a mysterious gift. It’s a membership in a secret society, The Pact, and includes a weighty manual, which details the rules. So begins an excursion into a cult of marriage that begins at a cocktail party in a stylish UK suburb, where the newlyweds meet other members of The Pact – venture capitalists, techies, and a woman Jake recognises from college. Alice feels optimistic, even giddy. But soon The Pact intrudes upon their private lives, limiting their freedom and imposing punishments in a desert spa/prison. Richmond spins a complex web of surveillance and denial as Jake tracks down The Pact’s mysterious founder in Scotland to save his marriage – and possibly his life. (Credit: Bantam)

Madeleine Blais, To the New Owners

“We hoped the house would never sell,” writes Blais, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, as she looks back upon decades of summertime memories in a “weather-beaten eyesore” on Martha’s Vineyard that she put on the market in 2014. She first visited her husband’s family’s summer place – a “shack” purchased for $80,000 (£40,000) – in 1976. She recalls her early days – Scotty Reston’s private tour, beginning at Edgartown and circumnavigating the island by car – and family celebrations over the years. She covers multiple milestones – Chappaquiddick, Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws, presidential visits beginning with Bill Clinton and her annual rendezvous with Katherine Graham from 1989 until her death in 2001. “Like all islands, the Vineyard is a head case, mysterious, a unique coinage, cut off, stuck-up, a loner, a bit of a drama queen,” she writes. (Credit: Atlantic Monthly Press)

Diksha Basu, The Windfall

Delhi native Basu’s astute and comic take on upward mobility in 21st Century India begins when Mr Jha sells his website and moves his family from an apartment in East Delhi where they’ve lived for 25 years to a mansion in Gurgaon. But first, the couple gives a party for their closest friends, knowing they will be the subjects of envious gossip. Already Mr Jha has heard one of them call his hard-earned money “a lucky windfall”. The new wealth makes Mrs Jha nervous. Even their son Rupak, who is in business school in the US, is rattled. Basu’s tale of one family’s adjustment to social life among their often pretentious new neighbours (they have no guard, and only one car, one notes) is filled with sharp insights and humour. (Credit: Crown)

Jaimal Yogis, All Our Waves Are Water

In this disarming memoir, surfer-seeker Yogis describes a quest that takes him to the Himalayas, where he befriends a Tibetan monk named Sonam, to New York, where he audits Buddhist scholar Richard Thurman’s religion classes at Columbia, and to Jerusalem’s Western Wall. He weaves together his spiritual journey and surfing – at Puerto Escondido, one of Mexico’s most ruthless surf breaks, where he studies a tube master, and at Padang in Bali, where he gathers the courage to follow a risk-taking surfer friend into a huge wave (“Just as Jimmy said, time was different in here… the now, unfiltered”). At Ocean Beach in San Francisco, he considers how his growing family and the ocean anchor him as he searches for “the stillness inside the chaos, the union inside duality.” (Credit: Harper Wave)

Chiara Barzini, Things That Happened Before the Earthquake

Barzini sets her dark and sophisticated coming-of-age novel in Los Angeles in the months between the 1992 riots after the acquittal of the police officers who killed Rodney King and the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Eugenia moves from Rome to LA after her family stars in a commercial and her anarchist father decides they can become rich and famous in Hollywood. Suddenly she’s living in the Valley, with the 405 freeway roaring incessantly in her ears. At 15, she’s cynical about her father’s ambitions, embarrassed by her parents’ nudism on the beach at Malibu, and disoriented by her surroundings. After a friend is killed in a gang shooting, she finds solace with a green-eyed girl named Deva in Topanga Canyon. Then comes the quake, and nowhere feels safe anymore.

(Credit: Doubleday)

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