Things slowed down for us a bit in August. Garrett and I started the month in Austria, did a short stint in France to visit my friend Sara and her husband Joe, and then flew to Ireland, where we spent a total of three weeks between Kinsale, Cork City, Dublin, Tralee, Dingle, and Terryglass, a small village on Lough Derg in County Tipperary. We went back and forth between staying on our own and visiting with family and friends, finding a nice balance between fun and relaxation.
When I relaxed, I read. In August, I read four books: The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams, The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal, and What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon. I really enjoyed all four of these stories—read my detailed thoughts on each below to see if any resonate with you!
Beatriz Williams is one of my go-to authors for historical fiction. I’ve read and enjoyed all of her books (see them here) and The Golden Hour didn’t disappoint. It tells the story of Leonora “Lulu” Randolph, a fictional reporter who arrives in Nassau in 1941 to write a magazine society column, and Elfriede, a woman “recovering” in a Swedish infirmary from postpartum depression in 1900. Lulu’s column focuses on the real-life Duke and Duchess of Windsor; the Duke, the former King of the United Kingdom who abdicated so he could marry Wallis Simpson, later known as the Duchess of Windsor, was appointed governor of the Bahamas in 1940. It is believed that the Windsors were Nazi sympathizers, and The Golden Hour creates an interesting story around their lavish lifestyle that was laced with deceit and political tension during their time in the Bahamas. I enjoyed Williams’s fictional spin on actual events coming from the voice of the main character, Lulu, and how the story unfolds to connect her with the life and history of Elfriede, the other protagonist. If you like British history, WWII-era novels, and spunky lead characters, give The Golden Hour a try.
The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda was Reese Witherspoon’s August book club pick. It’s a thriller set in the fictional coastal town of Littleport, Maine, a summer destination for the wealthy. One of the summertime guests, Sadie Loman, is found dead, and the cops rule it as a suicide. Sadie’s best friend and year-round Littleport resident Avery Greer doesn’t accept the ruling, and digs deeper into Sadie’s past. What she fights to uncover is more personal and more upsetting than she could have imagined. This book is a quick-reading page turner, and perfect for this time of year. I’d definitely recommend!
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows—what a title! Somebody had left a hardcopy of this novel outside of our marina a few months ago and it made me stop and laugh. I kept walking, though, without picking the book up, because it didn’t sound like something that I’d be interested in reading. Oh how wrong I was! This book kept showing up in different places so I finally decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did. It’s about Nikki, a twenty-something daughter of Indian immigrants, who lives on her own in west London. Though she’s distanced herself from the Sikh community, she ends up taking a job teaching a creative writing course at a Punjabi community center. But the women who show up for the class—all Sikh widows—are expecting to learn basic literacy. Eventually, they find middle ground, of all places, in learning how to craft and write erotic stories. These stories begin to empower the women and get the negative attention of the Brotherhood, the conservative men who seek control over the London Punjabi community, a control they will go to whatever lengths necessary to achieve. In Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, Balli Kaur Jaswal weaves together a story of feminism, community, and strength that’s fun to read.
What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon was a beautiful story that nearly had me in tears as it came to an end. Set in both modern day and early 20th-century Ireland, this story is part historical fiction, part romance, and part magic. It follows Anne Gallagher, a writer who has traveled to Ireland for the first time to spread her grandfather’s ashes. She was raised by her grandfather and is devastated to let him go, but as she rows out onto a lake in County Sligo to release his ashes into the wind, something changes, and she doesn’t have to say goodbye to him after all. I especially enjoyed reading this while I was in Ireland; Harmon does a great job of depicting the country. Michael Collins, the Easter Rising, and the Irish War of Independence all play parts in this book, and it’s nice to be able to digest some of Ireland’s troubled history set into a fictional backdrop. I would definitely recommend this book, too!
I’m happy to report that I enjoyed all four novels that I read in August and I would suggest them to anyone. Have you read any of these titles? What did you think?
Here are book reviews from months past: