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Books I’ve Loved Reading Over Long Hot Summers by Ann Turner

Ann Turner, author of Out of the Ice,  is an award-winning screenwriter and director, avid reader, and history lover. She is drawn to salt-sprayed coasts, luminous landscapes, and the people who inhabit them all over the world. She reveals the books she recommends reading over a long hot summer:

With summer creeping in and the promise of sea and warmth and light in that magical time between Christmas and New Year, when the world seems to slow and take a breath, I’m thinking of books I’ve read on summer holidays. Somehow a good book brings back memories more vividly – where you were when you read it, what you missed when you became so absorbed you abandoned all activities to get to the end.

To The Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf

I’d just finished a year of film school and was hitch-hiking around New Zealand with friends (those were the days!). I vividly remember crossing between the North and South islands, and then taking a milk-round boat while it carried its deliveries around Milford Sound. All the while I was absorbed in To The Lighthouse, transported to the Isle of Skye in Scotland, experiencing the Ramsay’s holiday, the visit to the lighthouse initially not able to happen due to bad weather. Time passed dreamily – in the novel and on deck – and I was absorbed in the Ramsay’s relationships and loss, and Lily Briscoe’s art that echoed the feelings of Virginia Woolf to her own writing and creativity.

Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow – Peter Høeg

There’s something wonderful about reading stories set in the ice when outside it’s boiling- hot summer. This was me at beachside Lorne many years ago, drawn into the freezing Danish setting and travelling with the strong, feisty Smilla Qaaviqaaq Jaspersen as she unravels the mystery of a conspiracy that she feels is behind the death of her neighbour’s child. Tense, poetic, sublime. Inspirational.


Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood

A Sydney cliff walk on a bright summer’s day between Bondi Beach and Coogee ended with sitting down at my friend’s house and reading Alias Grace. I didn’t go out until I’d finished. Lyrical, disturbing. An enigmatic central character you can’t forget. Did Grace Marks commit the murders, or was she innocent?


Let The Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist

In a rental beside the lighthouse at Airey’s Inlet in Victoria, with the beam of light sweeping through our windows, I read this evocative, moving, and at times deeply violent story about 12-year-old Oscar and his friendship with Eli, an ancient vampire in the body of a child. Haunted by the book and the locations – both fictional, and where I was staying. Sometimes I love being scared when I’m safely tucked up inside.

The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

Summer on the Victorian Surf Coast, and what better way to unwind than with this page-turning thriller set in Paris and London. Travelling with symbolist Robert Langdon and police cryptographer Sofie Neveu to unravel the mystery as to why a curator at the Louvre was shot by an albino monk. I started at night, read the whole of the next day and into the early hours. Ah, holiday reading…


The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larrson

I was in Robe on the South-East Coast of South Australia. The pristine expanse of Long Beach and the cerulean waters of Guichen Bay passed me by because a friend had lent me this book. I literally could do nothing else until I finished it. I barely ate. I enjoyed every moment. I missed a round of golf with my sister, but nothing could tear me away from Millenium magazine publisher Mikael Blomvist and the truly extraordinary computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander. I loved the Swedish locations and the lyricism of their names, and found the mystery utterly compelling.


Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Back on the Surf Coast; another hot summer, another book I can’t put down. The twist half-way through took me totally by surprise. I loved the way the story used the backdrop of America post-GFC. Smart, highly-qualified people losing jobs. Games and trouble in a marriage… Murder? Thrilling fun.


The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

Another book with Girl in its title – what’s going on? Now I’m in Glenelg, a beach-side suburb of Adelaide, watching orange sunsets from a hotel and reading this compelling psychological thriller. My favourite character was Rachel. I thought her blackouts from drinking, which made her an exquisitely unreliable narrator – even to herself – was sheer brilliance. Loved it. Although I couldn’t squeeze in many beach walks as the novel was so absorbing.


Tom Houghton – Todd Alexander

A blissful Indian summer by the beach. And what better way to spend it than being completely caught up in the story of Tom Houghton, an intelligent, sensitive, resourceful boy who is bullied for who he is. As a filmmaker, I loved that Tom escaped into the world of cinema, and his obsession with Katharine Hepburn and her brother Thomas Houghton Hepburn. Fantasy and reality collide in an unforgettable scene, and the powerful story bravely confronts the effects of bullying and how they can mould the adult. Will they destroy a life? Beautifully told, I couldn’t put it down. A moving and memorable experience.


Hello, Beautiful! – Hannie Rayson

Summer at home in inner-Melbourne. With cicadas screeching in the willow tree outside, I pick up this memoir and am instantly transported into a witty, intelligent world full of insight and humour. Hannie’s storytelling is brilliant. A renowned playwright, through Hannie’s eyes we enter a dramatic landscape of life and memories that is utterly compelling I adored the Hollywood encounter, and my favourite story of all was the body discovered under a certain house. I laughed, felt my own memories rise to the surface as childhood moments were revealed, and was very moved by truthful, confronting stories of loss. A book to treasure.


And now the holidays are almost here, I’m gathering my summer reading. I’ve just started Jojo Moyes’ Me Without You, and have Anna Romer’s Beyond the Orchard to look forward to. Then there’s Sue Grafton’s X, Jill Dawson’s The Crime Writer, David Mitchell’s Slade House and Max Porter’s Grief Is The Thing With Feathers. And I’m hoping for lots of books for Christmas!


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