Best-selling author Penny Vincenzi prides herself on her novels’ first lines, which she carefully crafts to grab the attention of her readers. The opener of her latest book, The Decision, does just that: ‘Eliza was in the middle of curtseying to the Queen, when she decided it was time she lost her virginity.” When someone writes attention-getters like that, you can be sure that what they choose to read themselves will be provocative, to say the least. Here, Vincenzi shares her picks of books she thinks will make great summer reads — a tantalizing and wide-ranging list.
My summer reading list, like all my reading lists, covers a pretty broad church. The joy of reading on holiday is that you have time to get properly into a book, to wallow in it, uninterrupted (well you do once you’re not the mother of young children, which I was for a very long time). Wonderful. But it does need to be pretty varied, the list; otherwise you can get stuck in a sort of book-warp and stop appreciating them properly. It’s also a time for catching up on your reading, with the ones you’d meant to read all year; which explains one book, Wolf Hall; the other two are pretty new. So, here goes!
1. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, $25.
It’s the magical book about the Tudors in general and Thomas Cromwell in particular. Hilary Mantel’s genius is to take the past, wave a literary wand over it and turn into something absolutely alive and now. She is an absolute joy to read: compelling, engaging, and above all, irresistibly page-turning. I’ve only just begun it; I can’t wait to go on.
2. Goddess of Vengeance by Jackie Collins, $10.
I love Jackie Collins; she is so completely unputdownable; her characters, while glossy and fairy tale, still ring totally true — Lucky Santangelo is one of the great creations of fiction, as far as I’m concerned; and she takes you into this glitzy, gorgeous world in a few magical sentences. This one, about a tycoon determined to buy her beloved hotel complex, The Keys, promises to be one of her very best.
3. The Baroness: The Search for Nica the Rebellious Rothschild by Hannah Rothschild, $24.
I adore biographies, especially when they read like fiction—as this one does! Nica Rothschild is Hannah’s great aunt, and she sets out to find her. Born into the immensely wealthy Rothschild family, Nica does actually run away from her privileged background to join the circus of the jazz world and becomes known as the Medici or the Peggy Guggenheim of Jazz. Hannah finds her in a jazz cellar in New York and takes us on from there: again, it promises to be sheer magic.