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Escape In Summer: Five Perfect Novels

Author: Sarah Gulliford

Picture: Ellen Munro, Flickr

Escape In Summer: Five Perfect Novels

Sarah Gulliford recommends five great books for relaxation and reflection in summertime.

For me, summer and reading have always been inextricably linked. My mum once bought me fourteen novels, making me promise to avoid reading them until we arrived on holiday in Italy. She was dismayed- and irritated!- to discover I had read seven before we had even left the country.

There is a real symmetry in the feeling of escape when exploring on holiday and that of completely immersing myself in a great novel. The stories below also challenge me to question how my faith impacts the way I view the world, due to the powerful portrayals of human experience and relationships.

1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Canongate, 2002

The story, narrated by Pi, begins in India but follows his struggle for survival on a lifeboat with a hyena, zebra, orang-utan and tiger in the Pacific Ocean.

Whilst Pi encounters many nail-biting, dangerous moments, it is the beautiful depiction of a child’s struggle to reconcile reason and faith that makes it so compelling. As a reader, you too will question which one empowers you, which one you rely on and which one, ultimately, results in survival.

Mantel’s ability to skilfully blend the far-fetched, adventure story with a realistic and tender humanity makes this an original, touching read.

2. The Story: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People by Max Lucado, Zondervan, 2011

This book is a gamechanger. Lucado wrote the story of the Bible as exactly that: a story. For anyone feeling intimidated by complex storylines in scripture, this is a far easier read. It brought me real clarity as to how everything from Genesis to Revelation fits together.

You can easily read this as a novel and enjoy the drama, struggle and redemption of God’s love story with his people. However, it also works well as an accompaniment to Bible study or personal prayer.

3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Penguin Books, 2009

Inspired by the author’s own experience, The Help tackles segregation in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. The story is told from three perspectives, two African American maids and one single, white woman, revealing their individual and collective efforts to find their voices and speak up against social injustice.

Although the racial and gender inequality is shocking, it is striking how many parallels can be drawn between this fictional world and today’s world. The inevitable empathy experienced compels you to use your voice to stand up for the oppressed and vulnerable, as our faith asks us, to create a just society.   

4. Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington, Miramax, 2002

Based on her mother and aunts’ stories, Pilkington shows the escape of three aboriginal children in Australia in the 1930s. Struggling to return to their community after being uprooted by the government, the bond between the three girls, and their perseverance, leaves you in awe.

The power of family shines through as you follow the girls’ dangerous journey and will them to succeed.

5.Atonement by Ian McEwan, Jonathan Cape, 2001

McEwan explores the relationship between guilt, forgiveness and atonement, and their influence on us. We are encouraged to question narrator Briony’s version of the hard-hitting and emotional events of her life, particularly a decision she makes as a child and its impact on those closest to her.

McEwan brilliantly presents the ways in which we tell stories from our pasts. How do we bend the truth to make anecdotes or events more entertaining or flattering? How is this changed when we are ashamed about the story? How truthful really are we? Although the novel is slow to start, once you have reached part two, you will be gripped.

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