I spend my summer vacation at Victoria Beach, an idyllic resort on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. Its beaches are named after British royalty — Alexandra, King Edward and Connaught — and its leafy lanes are reminiscent of the English countryside. The pace is slow, as cars are restricted, so it is a biker’s and walker’s paradise. The biggest decision of the day is what cookie to buy at the bakery – the legendary “Dream” or “Happy Face”. A charming little library on the “village green” hosts an annual sale of cheap but excellent books. Yoga classes are held at the lakefront clubhouse, where the breeze caresses your face as you sink into corpse pose on the ancient wooden floor.
The local newsletter, the Victoria Beach Herald, has published a weekly summer issues since 1925. It features a local gossip column, “Beach Banter,” yacht club and tennis news, recipes for cocktails and book reviews.
Although not a fan of frothy beach reading, I make exception for the suggestions by the brainy and well read Jeff Swystun who is also a top reviewer for Amazon Canada. This summer he has stuck to a theme. All books reviewed involve “lakes, cottages, beaches and some randiness” with some astute parallels to Victoria Beach thrown in. With thanks to Mr. Swystun, here are excerpts from a couple of his “VB Summer Reads” reviews, borrowed from The Herald:
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
“The story of deception and unrequited love toggles back and forth between 1931 and 1938 … at a very tony summer community in Rhode Island. (P)arallels with Victoria Beach abound… husbands only appear on weekends…cottages have been in the family for generations and a clubhouse offer(s) bridge, dances, dinners and boatloads of gin. A Hundred Summers is a surprising pleasure like an MLCC sale on Tanqueray. ”
Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand
“Lies and secrets lead to a horrible incident impacting the sensitive balance within and between three families…. The characters start out as stereotypes but these damaged parents and their troubled teens are revealed to be much deeper indeed. Nantucket is a ‘fantasy of American summertime’ a place of lunches, parties, tournaments and fundraisers based on social currency. … This is not your average beach read so perhaps save it for the fall (to) consume along with several scotches.”
And here are my own beach reads:
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
A Hollywood starlet visits an Italian coastal resort town and the ramifications of her clandestine encounter with Richard Burton are not resolved for decades. This novel tranported me to a Portofino-like hotel, where I sipped iced limoncello while sunning on the cliffs above the Adriatic.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Five kids meet at a summer camp for artsy teenagers in 1974. A coming of age tale that follows the characters through early adulthood to late middle age and contemplates how fame and fortune affect friendship.
Make summer last into September with a sizzling beach read. Surf’s up!