A sandy beach is the place to be on a sweltering Okanagan summer day. You can enjoy a picnic, wade in for a dip to cool off, bask in the sun, play on the water, or find a shady spot, lean back and read some of these light, breezy novels:
– Winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula awards, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last (1998) by Connie Willis is an ideal book for the beach. It is a comedic story of mystery, romance and time travel.
Ned Henry, time-lagged and exhausted, desperately needs rest after shuttling between the 21st century and the 1940s to search for a Victorian atrocity called the bishop’s bird stump. It is part of a project to restore the famed Coventry Cathedral, razed to the ground by a Nazi air raid over 100 years earlier.
Ned must fix a chronological complication –caused by fellow time traveller Verity Kindle– by travelling back to Oxford in 1889. He arrives in the Victorian era dressed in boating clothes, a mountain of luggage, a regal cat in a box and absolutely no idea of what he is supposed to do next.
After drifting down a river, in a parody of Three Men in a Boat, he finally finds Verity, his contact for this mission, and together the two must solve the problem or the Nazis will win the Second World War.
– Silver Girl (2011), a novel by Elin Hilderbrand, is beach reading at its best: a moving story of loss, friendship, love and forgiveness.
When the Feds nab Meredith Delinn’s husband Freddy for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, she finds herself under investigation. She flees New York for Nantucket and the comfort of her closest friend, Connie, now profoundly lonely after the death of her husband and the estrangement of her daughter.
Much of the novel is told in flashback as Connie and Meredith work through their crisis. But the talent of the author keeps these memories resonant and alive as the present day.
– Azincourt (2008) is a remarkable and action-packed depiction of the legendary battle of Agincourt in 1415 by Bernard Cornwell, acclaimed author and master historical novelist.
The battle, fought on St. Crispin’s Day and immortalized in Shakespeare’s Henry V, is the first major battle ever won by the use of the longbow, a weapon developed by the English. The longbow enabled the English to win a brilliant and unexpected victory at Agincourt and dominate the European battlefield for the rest of the century.
It is a breathtaking, finely researched tale told from the various viewpoints of nobles, peasants, archers and horsemen.
Cornwell breathes life into the relentless fighting, the anguish of an army crippled by disease and the incomparable bravery of the English soldiers. No other historical novelist has so mastered the details of warfare in centuries past.
– The first novel in the Walt Longmire series by Craig Johnson, The Cold Dish (2004) is a breezy and stylish mystery. The series, recently popularized by an award-winning A&E TV series, begins with the discovery of the corpse of Cody Pritchard, a much-disliked young man.
The title, of course, refers to revenge, and Longmire, the veteran sheriff of Absaroka County in the Bighorn Mountain Country in Wyoming, would rather drink beer than investigate. But he is far from the usual loner cop.
He dispatches Deputy Victoria Moretti, a brittle and profane cop transplanted from Philadelphia, to the scene. They soon discover someone killed the young victim with a .45-70 buffalo rifle, an unusual weapon that unfortunately is fairly common in rural Absaroka County. Soon another corpse turns up and Longmire, with the help of Moretti and his best friend, Henry Standing Bear, doggedly solves the crime.
– The number of books that may be suitable for nonfiction aficionados to read on a beach is not extensive compared to works of fiction material, but Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (1997) is certainly an exception.
The work, by Canadian author Mark Kurlansky, is an engaging, vivid volume that chronicles the immense impact and influence the cod fishing industry has had on the human race.
Kurlansky masterfully traces the relationship of the cod industry to such historical eras and events as medieval Christianity, international conflicts between England and Germany, slavery, the molasses trade and even the dismantling of the British Empire. It is not a lengthy read and the accurate scientific information is conveyed in a highly entertaining style.
– The first novel in a captivating Royal Naval series by Dewey Lambdin that begs comparison to C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series, The King’s Coat (1989) is a terrific yarn.
In this first novel, Alan Lewrie, the bastard son of Sir Hugo Willoughby, is a practising rake in London. But the dissolute life he leads abruptly ends when he is caught in flagrante with his sluttish half-sister –an underhanded ploy by Sir Hugo to rob the boy of his inheritance– and Alan finds himself banished to the Navy as a midshipman on the 64-gun Adriadne.
Alan also sails on an American-built schooner and the frigate Desperate and the storms, battles and problems he encounters transform him from an indulgent fop into a competent officer who gradually begins to take pride in his hard service.
— Peter Critchley is the reference librarian at the Vernon branch of the Okanagan Regional Library. All the previewed books in this column are available at the library.