I'm going on vacation pretty soon and while I won't be lying on a beach (or at least not much), I know a lot of people will be. Beaches and the sea mean a great deal to me because I grew up only a few yards away from both. The sea was that stormy stretch that separates the north of England from the flatlands of Holland and the beach was sandy and folded into shallow ridges by the tide and studded here and there with fossils we kids called 'Devil's Toenails'. After storms we'd comb it for treasures and mostly found bits of rope and driftwood, but one morning I did discover an octopus the size of my arm. I took it to school in a plastic box and my teacher, a staunch lady, let me show it to my class.
If you're going to a beach this summer, I hope you have as much fun as I did. Here are five books about the sea and beaches you might want to sample as you listen to the waves.
The Beach by Alex Garland
A young traveller in Thailand receives a map in a backpackers' hostel from a man who kills himself later that night. Richard decides to use the map to find the mysterious beach the man told him about and takes a young French couple with him. But getting to the beach is only the beginning of a story which quickly descends into betrayal and murder.
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
Theatre director Charles retires to a cottage by the sea intending to write his memoirs. A chance meeting with an old flame provokes him instead into a mission to force her to once again fall in love with him.
The Sea by John Banville
A story of reminiscence and coming to terms with loss. Max returns to the small seaside town in Ireland where he summered, hoping that reconnecting with his childhood will help him recover from the death of his wife. During his stay, he begins to remember his association with the eccentric Grace family and their twins.
The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve
A photographer Jean visits the New England island which was the scene of a brutal double murder many years before. She becomes obsessed with the story, which intermingles with her fear that her husband may be having an affair.
The Shipping News by E Annie Proulx
After the death of his no-good wife Petal, Quoyle takes the offer of his aunt to return with his two small daughters to the Newfoundland town of his forebears. There he must find a job, build a house and deal with the fact he's the last of a long line of sailors but happens to be terrified of water.