Summer Reading by Hilma Wolitzer

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Summer Reading by Hilma Wolitzer is the story of three women, who are loosely connected through their community in the Hamptons. Angela is retired and leads a reading group, of which Lissy is a member. Lissy is a trophy wife who spends her summers in the Hamptons, and Michelle cleans house for Lissa. Michelle is a local and is very aware of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ divide. The three women aren’t friends and don’t have much in common.

Lissy’s reading group are known as the ‘Page Turners.’ I haven’t read any of the books on their summer reading list, although I would like to. The books included, Can You Forgive Her, by Anthony Trollope, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert and Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Lissy is dyslexic, but wants to improve herself by reading good literature, however the other members are more interested in gossiping about people they know.

Funny that. I joined a book group once, and left after a few months as the group talked about the book for five minutes, then started on their husbands and children. Oh well.

Angela, Lissy and Michelle all have relationship issues, all of which were neatly tidied up by the end of the book. Their backgrounds were interesting, but I felt as if these three characters were too separate for the stories to work together to make a whole. I think I would have got more from Summer Reading if I had read the books the characters were reading, as I suspect their issues were similar to the issues faced by the heroines in their reading list.

What did interest me were the questions I always wonder about when I read about Literature. For example, what is Literature? Who gets to decide which books get to be called Literature? If anyone actually knows, I would love to know for sure. The deciding of things about Literature seem to me to be subjective.

Anyway, one character’s ‘go-to-book’ is Villette, which I own in a child’s abridged Dean’s Classic version, but have never read. I’m fairly sure Villette is considered to be ‘Literature’ and I think I’ll read it soon.

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Summer Reading makes good summer reading. The references to good books make this book feel more worthwhile than reading trash, (books that you don’t mind taking to the beach),  but the stories are uncomplicated enough to enjoy without too much effort.

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7 Comments

Filed under Author, Book Review, Wolitzer - Hilma

7 responses to “Summer Reading by Hilma Wolitzer

  1. I must read this book! I’m in a book club and we call ourselves The Page Turners. We actually do discuss our books though, and not just gossip 🙂

    • One of the characters in Summer Reading isn’t very complimentary about the name The Page Turners, but it was the first time I’ve heard it and love it! Maybe I should look for another book group, you give me hope that what I want exists – mostly book conversation, some gossip.

      • Good book clubs are out there! Keep looking! I’ve read so many wonderful books that I never would’ve picked up, and I’ve also read some terrible books too. Books we don’t like can sometimes have a better discussion than those everyone loves.

      • You’re right about having better discussions around books that people dislike. I may be mean, but I really enjoy a scathing review of a terrible book on blogs too…

      • Haha! Me too!! I love a well written bad review. They are so enjoyable to read! And they even make me want to read the book, just to see if I agree.

  2. I’ve never joined a bookclub ‘cos I’d get all whiny if they made me read a book I didn’t want to read! Literature – contemporary publisher’s definition: any book where the author forgot to include a plot. FF’s definition: any book with beautiful writing that says something profound about the human condition. Plus PG Wodehouse, ‘cos he makes me laugh…

    • Whiny? The people in my book group were more wine-y. I was the odd one out since I don’t drink. They are probably still going strong. I read four books in the group, one was brilliant, one was great, one was awful and one I can’t remember. I can’t remember whining, but I might have groaned when I saw the awful book’s cover.
      In the case of the contemporary publisher’s definition, some of the worst books I’ve read could be called Literature. I like your definition better, which is exactly what I hoped it was. PG Wodehouse said “There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.” Happy days 🙂