Top 10: Nostalgic Summers

July 28, 2017

Feeling sticky in this summer heat? We’ll bet our bottom dollar that you’ll miss it when those long winter nights roll around, so we’ve jumpstarted the summer nostalgia wagon with the Top 10 literary summers we like remembering best.

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Here’s our Top 10 list of nostalgic summers:


10. Summers in small-town Quebec

Kristin Andrychuk’s Cadillac Road (Guernica Editions) begins in the eponymous, western-Quebec town with the childhood summers of Sharon Desjardins. While her abusive and wayward family circumstances were definitely not postcard-worthy, Sharon’s memories of Cadillac were; she spends the rest of the novel trying to make her way back.


9. “Nobody puts Baby in the Corner”-style summers

David French’s That Summer (Talonbooks) is a coming-of-age play following two sisters falling in love with townies at an Ontario lakeside resort. Bookish Maggie tries making sense of her beloved with the help of poets and novelists, while Daisy heads to the resort’s dances and stirs up trouble.




8. Summers of historical discovery

Banished to Hamburg, Germany after her “bad behaviour” pushes her parents to the brink, sixteen-year-old Delora James takes up with a translated diary by a WWII-era teen named Garda in Karen Bass’ Summer of Fire (Coteau Books). Nothing like teen pregnancy, war, and living under a military dictatorship to put things into perspective.


7. Nostalgia for a summer morning

In translated play August: An Afternoon in the Country (Playwrights Canada Press) a betrothed couple head out of the city for a dinner to celebrate their impending marriage, their afternoon quickly devolves into familial infighting. It may not have been long ago, but we’re sure sweet memories of the uncomplicated morning loomed large in their minds.




6. Summers of growing freedoms and responsibilities

While the disappearance of older brother Bliss no doubt colours the narrative of Riel Nason’s All the Things We Leave Behind (Goose Lane Editions), it’s worth noting that in this 1977-set story, seventeen-year-old Violet is both left holding the reins of her parents’ busy antique stand, and has the house to herself.


5. Summers abroad

Maria Coletta McLean’s travel memoir Summers in Supino (ECW Press) chronicles her and her husband’s summer visits to her father’s sleepy central Italian hometown. With vivid descriptions of pizzerias in sheep fields and summer harvest festivals, we’re nostalgic for Maria’s Italian summer, too.




4. Frenemy summers

The ultimate frenemies Rose and Julie in Nelly Arcan’s Breakneck (Anvil Press) first meet on a sweltering summer day on the roof of their Montreal apartment building. Both addicted to body modification and Rose’s boyfriend, Charles, they were probably better off parting ways after suntanning than indulging the tense alliance their relationship grows to be.


3. A summer of love

Andrew Binks’ debut novel The Summer Between (Nightwood Editions) traces the idyllic summers of Dougaldo Montmigny, when he swims in the river with, and gradually falls for, Metis boy Tomahawk Clark. Contrasted with his school days rife with bullying, homophobia, and racism, how could he – and we, the reader – be anything but nostalgic for those in-between times?


2. A summer in protest

Based on the true-life events of the Clayoquot Sound protests of summer 1993, Two Roads Home (Freehand Books) imagines what would have happened if those peaceful protests against widespread clear-cutting went sour, and an act of sabotage results in an accidental death (so we're obviously nostalgic for the real ones, here).




1. Hammer-time summers

Set in downtown Hamilton, Brent van Staalduinen’s debut novel Saints Unexpected (Invisible Publishing) follows Mutton, a 15-year-old navigating her summer holiday working at her mother’s thrift store, first love, and an array of quirky characters and magically-imbued events both within her family and around the city.


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