Aga’s Top 3 Summer Reads

Holiday reading: three brilliant page-turners for the summer by our Creative Writing Retreat Facilitator, Aga Lesiewicz.

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

SR CW Summer Reads“You were never just you, and you owed it to the people you cared about to remember that. Because the people you loved were part of your identity, too. Perhaps the biggest part.”

This is a debut novel by an American writer, Charmaine Wilkerson, but she is by no means a literary novice. A former television news reporter, journalist and an award-winning author of short fiction, she writes with confidence and elegance. The book has been snapped up by Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films and is in development as a Hulu original series.

Beautifully written and evocative, Black Cake tells a tumultuous story of a family shaped by the troubled past of its matriarch, Eleanor. When her estranged children Benny and Byron reunite for her funeral, they receive a puzzling inheritance: a traditional Caribbean black cake, made from an old family recipe with an instruction to be shared ‘when the time is right’ and a voice recording by their mother, unveiling shocking secrets that shatter everything the siblings thought they knew about her. Will the newly discovered truths push Benny and Byron further apart, or bring them back together?  

These Days by Lucy CaldwellSR Hammock reading

“… a lot of people go through life not knowing a lot of things. It does take courage, to know. To live a life that, at least to yourself, is true. For a lot of people that's too high a price to pay.”

Two sisters. Four nights. One City.

Lucy Caldwell’s fifth novel is set in Belfast over four intense days and nights of bombing during the Blitz in April, 1941. It follows the lives of two sisters, Audrey and Emma – one has a job at the Tax Office, the other volunteers at the local First Aid post. Audrey is engaged to be married to a doctor, her father’s junior colleague, while Emma is in a clandestine lesbian relationship with her supervisor, ten years older and sexually emancipated.

Echoing at times Virginia Woolf’s poetic cadence, it’s a powerful study of transience of human life and love, of freedom and constraints of convention. It is also a moving story of a family, and a city, under duress.

Love Marriage by Monica Ali

SR Reading field“Harriet, an atheist, was championing the rights of true believers. She could argue anything, any position. Yasmin—despite her sinking feeling—admired the way Harriet’s mind darted, her panoramic intellect, her insatiable curiosity. Ma and Baba had a new thought only once a decade. That was probably an overestimate. Their views never changed.”

The first new novel in a decade from the bestselling author of Brick Lane is an absolute delight. It’s both a hilarious social comedy and a gripping exploration of complications and contradictions of love, sex, marriage, politics and faith.

Yasmin is about to get married to a fellow doctor, Joe, but as the wedding day approaches, her parents, Ma and Baba, have to meet the boyfriend’s subversive feminist mother, Harriet. The clash of cultures and expectations leads to a spectacular blowup. As long-held secrets and betrayals come to light, Yasmin is forced to question her own assumptions about the people she cares for and ask herself what she really wants in life.

Learn from Aga and develop your writing skills by claiming one of the last two treasured spots on our September 2023 Creative writing and Pilates Retreat!



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