Spectator by Seema Goswami: Page-turners
Like most dedicated Game of Thrones (GoT) fans, I must confess that I felt completely let down by the finale of the series. I mean, seriously, what was up with that?
Daenerys, the ‘Breaker of Chains’ transforms into a ‘Destroyer of Cities’ quicker than you can say ‘Dracarys’? The big reveal that Jon Snow is actually Aegon Targaryen, the true heir to the Iron Throne, is all for nothing as the poor man is again shunted off to the Wall (maybe he really did ‘know nothing’). Arya Stark is sent off on a Columbus-like quest to discover what is west of Westeros (couldn’t she just have asked Bran to warg into a raven and find out for all of us).
And Bran – honestly, Bran?! – is made the King of Six Kingdoms (Sansa Stark becomes Queen in the north, after announcing her decision to secede as if she were giving her order for lunch) even though we were assured earlier that he couldn’t even become Lord of Winterfell because he was now the Three-Eyed Raven. So, presumably, he was just holding out for a better job, or maybe the Three-Eyed Raven gig became a bit tedious after a while. You know, teenagers…
Anyhow, the TV series is done and dusted. And as you can probably tell, I am a tad disappointed at how things turned out. So now my hopes are pinned on George R.R. Martin giving us a better denouement in the two final books in the series than what we were served up on television. And while I wait – and wait, and wait, Martin is taking his time about writing the damn thing – I have decided to go back and reread the first five Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) books. I am now nearly at the end of the first book (which came out in 1996) and am looking forward to making my way through the next four volumes over the next few weeks.
So, that’s my summer reading sorted out then. But if, unlike me, you don’t fancy ploughing your way through a series of books you have already read before, then here are some recommendations that should take you through your summer vacations and maybe even a month or so beyond.
Here, in no particular order of preference, are my top summer reads:
The Lost Man by Jane Harper
I fell in love with Harper’s writing when I read her first book, The Dry. Set in the Australian outback, it was ostensibly a murder mystery, but as the layers peeled away, you realised it was so much more. Much the same is true of Harper’s latest novel, The Lost Man. It begins with the discovery of a dead body in mysterious circumstances but the investigation reveals much more than the name of the murderer. It also lays bare the inner lives of the family at the heart of the story and the community that surrounds it. An atmospheric novel, it brings the landscape alive as much as it does its characters. Clear the day in advance when you begin reading – you won’t want to put down the book any time soon.
The Winters by Lisa Gabriele
This is a marvellous reworking of Daphne Du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca, which turns the original story on its head by the time it is finished with it. The parallels with Du Maurier’s tale are all too clear. Rebecca is the dead wife who haunts the life of the new Mrs Winter. And yes, we never find out what the second Mrs Winter is called in this book either. The Mrs Danvers character in this book is played by the Winter daughter, called Dani. But just when you think this is just a re-telling of a story you are all too familiar with, Gabriele turns things around with a flourish you will never see coming. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Salt Fat Acid Heat: mastering the elements of good cooking by Samin Nosrat
If you have some time off and want to experiment in the kitchen over your summer break, look no further than this book. Most cookbooks focus on cuisines or sell on the basis of some celebrity chef’s reputation. Rare is the book that is cuisine neutral and concentrates on technique. The great thing about Samin Nosrat’s book is that it has something for both accomplished chefs and beginners because it focuses on the basis of all cooking. If you understand the effect of heat on ingredients, for instance, you can cook pretty much anything. When the book came out, Nosrat, an Iranian who cooks in California, was largely unknown. But after its spectacular success and the Netflix series of the same name, she has now become a celebrity chef in her own right. Don’t let that put you off, though. This is really the only cookbook you need, as you potter around in your kitchen. After all, technique is everything.
If you are anything like me, though, and long for some comfort reads to tide you over the holidays, then you can’t go wrong by falling back on some classics. My own personal favourites are such Jane Austen novels as Pride and Prejudice or even Emma, or any of the Regency Romances of Georgette Heyer, which I can read over and over again. Some of my friends swear by the delights of P.G. Wodehouse. Others fall back on such spy novelists as John Le Carré.
But no matter what the genre or who the author, do be sure to read a book or two over the summer. I will be waiting for your recommendations.
Journalist and author Seema Goswami has been a columnist with HT Brunch since 2004
Spectator appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, June 2, 2019
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