HomeCulture

5 Nostalgic reads about the end of summer

BY Owen Scott

1st Sep 2023 Culture

4 min read

5 Nostalgic reads about the end of summer
The end of summer is a uniquely nostalgic time. Here are five great books to read as the end of summer approaches
As summer nears its end, it can feel as though it has reached even higher peaks in temperaturethan ever before. As the heat rises and then cools, while summer begins to give way to autumn, our thoughts often turn to the changing of the seasons. The end of summer is a uniquely nostalgic time as the intense heat also signals the season’s end.
Here are five books that capture that unique combination of summer heat and nostalgia.

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh 

Castle Howard, York
Perhaps the most nostalgic summer book that you could read, Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisitedis unanimously considered a classic for a reason. The novel follows the decline of the aristocratic Flyte from the perspective of an outsider, Charles Ryder. Equally entranced by Brideshead Castleand by Sebastian Flyte and his sister, Julia, Charles finds himself drawn into their aristocratic world that is on the verge of collapse.
Waugh’s narrative takes you from Ryder and Flyte’s summer Oxford days through to spring near the end of the Second World War. Through the changing seasons, Charles, Sebastian and Julia find themselves changing as Britain, and the world around it, changes with them.

Call Me by Your Name, Andre Aciman

Aciman’s Call Me by Your Nameis a book that has exploded in popularity in recent years. Originally released in 2007, the book returned to popularity when Luca Guadagnino’s film adaptationwas released in 2017. The novel follows Elio’s romance with an exchange student, Oliver, staying with his family in Northern Italy. As the intense summer progresses, so does their relationship and Elio finds himself dramatically and painfully experiencing his first love. As the summer ends, reality begins to set in for Elio and Oliver in 1980s Italy.
"In the novel, Elio finds himself painfully experiencing his first love"
The novel is, of course, not without its controversies, but is well worth a read. It’s the definition of a slow burn and a perfect depiction of a summer romance that cannot last once the season ends.

Bonjour Tristesse, Françoise Sagan

Nice
Like Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name, Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesseis best read as the season reaches its hottest temperatures.
Sagan’s novella, which she wrote at just 18,follows the 17-year old Cecile, her father and her father’s mistress Elsa. With the arrival of her late mother’s friend, Anne, Cecile finds herself in a competition with Elsa and Anne for her philandering father’s attention.
Set against the backdrop of the French Riviera in the summer, the events of the novel are heightened by the transformative effect of the summer heat. The heat plays as much a role in the story as many of the characters themselves, leading them to commit actions they will later, when the summer cools, regret.

Heat Wave, Penelope Lively

Penelope Lively'snovella Heat Wavefollows a family as they spend a particularly hot summer in the English countryside. As the heat builds, Pauline watches her daughter, Theresa, make mistakes in love that she made in her past, with adultery threatening to break the family.
"Lively satirises the perception of the English countryside as an idyllic setting"
Lively satirises the perception of the English countryside as an idyllic setting, pointing out the flaws in this pretence and in middle-class family life. Summer becomes feverish in this short novella, as the personal lives of its characters become entangled. The collision of two generations in the oppressive heat of the summer makes Heat Wave an almost otherworldly read, that is perfect as summer reaches its climax.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

great gatsby
The unavoidable classic. The “American Novel.” The Great Gatsby is a novel that we, seemingly, cannot get away from as a society. Referenced constantly throughout culture, the novel perfectly depicts the decadence of 1920s New York in one chaotic, otherworldly summer, before the Great Depression.
"The novel depicts the decadence of 1920s New York in one chaotic, otherworldly summer"
The novel famously follows Nick Carraway’s involvement with Jay Gatsby’s pursuit of Daisy Buchanan. As the summer progresses, the characters’ decadent lifestyles and Gatsby’s obsessive pursuit of Daisy culminate in tragedy and destruction. The intensity of the New York summer is a catalyst in causing the downfall of many of the characters.
The novel, also, has a more complicated history than is often spoken about. F Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, likely deserves much more creditthan she is given in writing the novel, since he allegedly lifted several pages of the novel from her diaries. There is also a queer element to the storythat complicates readings of the novel. It’s a fascinating literary gem that captures the end of a summer, and the end of an era for America.
Banner credit: Summer reading (kieferpix)
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter

This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...