Summer School

IMG_0031One of the things that I have managed to organise over these past months has been this year’s Summer School.  As anyone who has been reading my blog over the years will know, despairing at the cost of literary Summer Schools, I set about establishing my own. Participants are offered a choice of five sets of related books and we then meet on three afternoons during a week in August to discuss the selected novels.  I’ve lost count as to how long we’ve been going now but I think this is either the eighth or the ninth year.  Interest has never waned and I think there is even the possibilty that this year we may have to run it twice; as we meet in people’s homes there is a limit to how many can attend at any one time.  I should know by the end of next week what this year’s books will be but in case you would like to make your own choice here is the list of titles offered.

Family Relations

The Paris Wife ~ Paula McLain

Vanessa and her Sister ~ Priya Parmar

The American Wife ~ Curtis Sittenfeld


Vienna Nights

Waiting for Sunrise ~ William Boyd

The Third Man ~ Graham Greene

Mortal Mischief ~ Frank Tallis


Paying the Price

A Whispered Name ~ William Brodrick

The Reckoning ~ Rennie Airth

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky ~ Simon Mawer


Raiding the Bookshelves

The Bookshop ~ Penelope Fitzgerald 

The Secret of Lost Things ~ Sheridan Hay

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore ~ Robin Sloan



The Thirteenth Tale ~ Diane Setterfield

A Fearful Symmetry ~ Audrey Niffenegger

Sisterland ~ Curtis Sittenfeld

I have a sneaking feeling that I know what the result is going to be, although in a sense it doesn’t matter to me as I put the selections together in the first place and I am hardly likely to pick books I don’t want to re-read myself. They are, of course, all re-reads, you couldn’t put sets together in this way if you didn’t know what the books were about.

So, which three books would you choose if you lived close enough to join in with us?  It will be interesting to see if your selections are the same as those actually involved.

27 thoughts on “Summer School

  1. heavenali June 10, 2018 / 9:16 am

    Those lists look great, of all of them I have only read Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop and The Thirteenth Tale. My choice of list would probably be either Raiding the bookshelves or Vienna Nights. Good luck with your summer school – such a good idea.


    • Café Society June 10, 2018 / 11:58 am

      I know of at least one participant who is with you on the Raiding the Bookshelves, Ali


  2. BookerTalk June 10, 2018 / 9:40 am

    It’s wonderful you’ve kept this going without losing any members. I’m in a quandary here for my choice because I like the sound of a few of the options. After long deliberation and a strong cuppa I decided to plump for Vienna Nights


    • Café Society June 10, 2018 / 12:00 pm

      I put this in after realising that I hadn’t read The Third Man, Karen. Then, of course, I read it for the project I set up about reading the years of my life. I have to get back to that.


  3. Laura June 10, 2018 / 9:43 am

    This sounds like a great thing to do. I haven’t read many of the books you list except for, randomly, all of the twin ones! Out of those three, I’d definitely go for Sisterland – I was disappointed by the other two.


    • Café Society June 10, 2018 / 12:01 pm

      I was really impressed by Sisterland, Laura. It was the first novel I’d read by Sittenfeld and now she is one of my favourite writers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laura June 10, 2018 / 4:22 pm

        She’s fantastic – I’ve read everything’s she’s written. Can’t wait for her new novel about Hillary Clinton.


  4. myfamilyandotherbooks June 10, 2018 / 12:17 pm

    Fantastic choices. I’ve only read a couple, but I’d go for the Family Relations set. Good luck with it.


    • Café Society June 10, 2018 / 12:44 pm

      There are a number of participants who would agree with you.


  5. kaggsysbookishramblings June 10, 2018 / 2:31 pm

    I’ve only read The Thirteenth Tale and The Third Man, both of which I loved. I’d probably go for The Bookshop, as everyone tells me how good it is! 🙂


  6. Café Society June 10, 2018 / 2:39 pm

    One of the reasons that The Thirteenth Tale is on the list is because I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about and so am hoping that a second read will help me appreciate it more.


    • Margaret June 10, 2018 / 4:42 pm

      I was disappointed by The Thirteenth Tale, but as I read it years ago I can’t remember why! I hope you’ll enjoy the second reading if it’s one of the chosen set of books.


    • Café Society June 10, 2018 / 4:35 pm

      We did books centred on a city (Edinburgh) last year so they may want a different theme this time, but you never know.


  7. Margaret June 10, 2018 / 4:22 pm

    I would vote for Paying the Price – I’ve read The Whispered Name and loved it! I like the look of The Reckoning and have a copy of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky in my TBRs.


    • Café Society June 10, 2018 / 4:36 pm

      Margaret, if you haven’t read Rennie Airth then you should do; you will love him. Go back to the beginning of the series though; this is the most recent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Margaret June 19, 2018 / 2:30 pm

        I went to Barter Books today and there on the shelves was River of Darkness – so I snapped it up.


  8. Kat June 10, 2018 / 11:37 pm

    I can’t decide if I’d rather raid the bookshelves or be twinned! What wonderful trios, and as always I’d love to attend your summer school.


  9. Liz June 11, 2018 / 5:15 pm

    Oooh what a brilliant idea, and a fabulous collection of books – so hard to choose just one group, but if I was forced to, I think Paying the Price looks really intriguing – unlike some of the other sets, I have not read any of these three. Meanwhile, I was interested in your note about last year’s Edinburgh-themed read – which books did you pick for that?


    • Café Society June 11, 2018 / 5:22 pm

      There is a real line of development through those three books, Liz. The first deals with those men who were shot for deserting during the First World War, the Third with the women who were sent to France to aid the resistance in the Second and the middle book with both. I won’t be unhappy if that group wins out. The books we read last year were Muriel Sparks’ The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox and Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Liz June 11, 2018 / 5:30 pm

        I’m definitely going to add those three to my TBR – they each sound cracking reads and I really like that link. Well done on putting together such interesting collections. And thanks for the info about the Edinburgh books – another great set. I am an O’Farrell fan but have not read TVAOEL, so will add that to my list too. Kate Atkinson is always a great read – I was pleased to see that she has another book out this Autumn. 🙂


  10. Café Society June 11, 2018 / 5:34 pm

    I think Esme Lennox is my favourite O’Farrell, Liz, probably because it becomes very clear that Esme, like me, has Aspergers. I don’t think I would have fared very well in ‘polite’ Edinburgh 1930’s society either.


  11. helen June 12, 2018 / 9:55 am

    I love the idea of your summer schools and I’m sure whatever everyone chooses this year you’ll have a wonderful time reading and discussing them. I think I’d be caught between Vienna Nights, because I want to read all of those books anyway, and Paying the Price, because I don’t know anything about any of them.
    Coincidentally, I’m about a third of the way through Her Fearful Symmetry at the moment and enjoying it. I nearly enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale – so many great elements but in the end it didn’t quite hang together for me. I seem to remember that HFS received very mixed reviews but since I found it in a charity shop for 50 cents it seemed positively rude not to try it out.


  12. Laila@BigReadingLife June 13, 2018 / 2:27 am

    I am torn between Twinned and Raiding the Bookshelves. I really enjoyed Her Fearful Symmetry and wasn’t as enamored with The Thirteenth Tale but wouldn’t mind a reread. And I’ve not read Sisterland (but have read American Wife.)


  13. mlegan June 13, 2018 / 12:57 pm

    The only set I haven’t read one of the books is Paying the Price, so I would choose that. But thanks, now I have a new list of books.


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