Brilliant beach books


by Camilla Ridley

Our friend Ros from the award winning independent Main Street Books shares her top holiday reads for this summer


Our friend Ros at the Main Street Book Store in her Ridley London printed floral silk shirt dress


1. The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

A debut novel where wild swimming and nature writing are the backdrop for a dark family drama, spiked with delicious wit.

On a perfect August morning, Elle Bishop heads out for a swim in the glorious freshwater pond below 'The Paper Palace' - the gently decaying summer camp in the back woods of Cape Cod where her family has spent every summer for generations. As she passes the house, Elle glances through the screen porch at the uncleared table from dinner the previous evening; empty wine glasses, candle wax on the tablecloth, echoes of laughter of family and friends. Then she dives beneath the surface of the freezing water to the shocking memory of the sudden passionate encounter she had the night before, up against the wall behind the house, as her husband and mother chatted to the guests inside. 

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2. The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

Pure escapism, funny, nostalgic and touching - top quality stuff, if you haven’t tried Beth O’Leary yet, what are you waiting for?

Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend's wedding in rural Scotland. The playlist is all sorted and the snacks are packed. But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs.  The driver is none other than Addie's ex, Dylan, who she's avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier. Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they've totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride.  What could possibly go wrong?

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3. Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers

A precise, witty, delicate pleasure of a read.  On the one hand the story of a woman, conscious life is passing her by, on the other, a touching, funny and tender love story.  With not a word out of place, it lingers in the mind, you can hear the clock ticking in the hall, feel the chill of a mother’s frown.  To be savoured chapter by chapter, thoughtful and thought-provoking in equal measure.

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4. Finding Freedom in the Lost Kitchen by Erin French (non fiction)

Erin French grew up barefoot on a 25-acre farm in Maine, fell in love with food as a teenager working the line at her dad’s diner and found her calling as a professional chef at her tiny restaurant The Lost Kitchen, tucked into a 19th century mill-now a world-renowned dining destination.  For fans of Wild by Sheryl Strayed, this is one young woman’s story of hard graft, heartache and outstanding resilience and success.  Read this and you’ll want to book a place at her table in Maine. 

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5. Clothes and Other Things that Matter by Alexandra Schulman (non fiction)

A memoir through clothes, by the former editor of Vogue, this reads like Desert Island Dresses.  Think of it as a thoroughly enjoyable chat with someone who can slip effortlessly between Donald Tusk, bras and Madeline Albright, all the while remaining thoroughly and refreshingly down to earth.

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6. Agent Sonya by Ben McIntyre (non fiction)

This is the greatest spy story never told.

Born to a German Jewish family, as Ursula grew, so did the Nazis’ power. A fanatical opponent of the fascism that ravaged her homeland, she was drawn to communism as a young woman, motivated by the promise of a fair and peaceful society. She eventually became a spymaster, saboteur, bomb-maker and secret agent (to say nothing of mother, lover and wife). In Agent Sonya, Britain’s most acclaimed historian vividly reveals the fascinating tale of a life that would change the course of history. Classic Ben Macintyre – a gripping ride, based on meticulous research, that reads like a novel – this is without doubt, the greatest spy story never told.

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