"The Magic Summer" by Noel Streatfeild

"The Magic Summer" by Noel Streatfeild (Amazon)

It's hard to believe that it's now September. Given that I still have to pause and think before writing "2019" instead of "2018," this is hardly fair. It feels like the year has barely begun. Instead, we've crested the apogee and are barreling straight toward you-know-what.

What we need, folks, are books to help us cling to summer. Maybe not cling as we might to a life raft - I don't want to be melodramatic, and the changing leaves are pretty - but maybe cling as we might to a beloved relative who is heading out of town for eight months.

These books will keep the feel of hot sun on your head and sand between your toes.

"The Magic Summer" by Noel Streatfeild. When their father falls ill overseas and their mother flies off to be at his bedside, four English siblings are sent to Ireland to live with their eccentric great-aunt in her falling-down house outside of Cork. There's a mystery here, with a runaway boy, but read this for the glorious descriptions of an Irish summer - gardening, fishing, singing to the seals on the beach. If you can find the edition with the Edward Ardizzone illustrations, all the better.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare. A king, a wedding, a magic spell involving a donkey, a play-within-a-play, the very puckish Puck and love going in all directions, mostly wrong. This most frothy of Shakespeare's plays is set in an ancient forest, in midsummer, among the trees and the fairies.

"The Feast of Love" by Charles Baxter. You can't read one without the other - this delightful re-imagining of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" begins when protagonist Charlie Baxter goes for a midnight midsummer stroll and encounters love, love stories and love going in all directions.

"Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter. Set in sun-drenched Italy and sun-drenched California, this entertaining novel tells the story of Pasquale, who comes to California looking for the woman who stole his heart 50 years ago in Italy.

"Maine" by J. Courtney Sullivan. It's a familiar plot device - members of a far-flung family reuniting for a special event. In Sullivan's novel, three generations head to the old family beach house one June for their annual reunion. The story is told through the eyes of four of the women, including the family's 83-year-old matriarch.

"Wish You Were Here" by Stewart O'Nan. O'Nan's prequel to "Emily, Alone" (and sort-of sequel to "Henry, Himself") has the Maxwell clan gathering at their summer cottage on New York's Lake Chautauqua to get it ready to sell after Henry's death. Nostalgia, quibbling, quarreling, lust and petty thievery mingle with the sand, the seagulls and the loss.

"Queen Sugar " by Natalie Baszile. Charlotte Bordelon's father has died and left her an unusual legacy - an old, failing sugar cane farm in Louisiana. She heads to the sultry, steamy South from her home in California to save the farm against all odds - including a hurricane, greedy white entrepreneurs and Charlotte's own evil half-brother.

"Instructions for a Heatwave" by Maggie O'Farrell. During the hottest summer that England has seen in decades, Robert Riordan cleans out his bank account and disappears. As his wife, Gretta, summons their children back home to sort things out, family secrets begin to emerge.

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