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My summers are seemingly always defined by the books I chose to lose myself in and summer 2021 was no exception! Here are my favorites I’ve reflected upon as we descend into the comfort of fall.

Frankisstein by Jeannette Winterson

I started my summer off with this post-modern fantastical take on a classic. Following Mary Shelley’s creative process in writing her genre-defining Frankenstein, the story toggles between Shelley’s timeline and the current timeline of Ry. As a romantic at heart, I’d say this novel is a tale of two love stories, one between Mary Shelley and her husband, and one with young Ry, who falls in love with ominous Professor Victor Stein. Winterson deftly navigates the allegoric story of Shelley and Ry’s transgender experience and takes the reader down the rabbit hole of gender, technology, and personal bias that left me dazed and ready to accept new experiences in a new city for my summer. There is a reason Winterson is a lauded artist in the writing world, known for breaking boundaries and leaving her readers furiously turning the pages till the end.

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

The second journey I embarked on was with Isra and her intergenerational story. Ranging from childhood in Palestine to adulthood in Brooklyn, being privy to Isra’s inner narrative gave rise to relatable experiences to women everywhere. I initially had to put A Woman Is No Man down for a couple of weeks once I started my summer internship because reading Rum’s stark analysis of universal womanhood was tough to internalize. Rum pulled no punches in Isra’s narrative as she experienced traumatic experience after traumatic experience, but was succeeded by her children, who learned to navigate a new world that never accepted their mother. A friend of mine encouraged me to finish when I was ready, and I can say I am thankful I did.

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

In an attempt to lighten my reading mood, I picked up Half Sick of Shadows and was pleasantly surprised by the new depths Sebastian gave to the old tale of Camelot. Rather than retell the old classic from Merlin or Arthur’s point of view, we experienced the world from Elaine, a Seer and a lesser-known character in the saga of Albion. The reader experienced the world as Elaine did, in the present and in the what-ifs. Fiercely loyal to her friends and burdened by the knowledge of all their downfalls, she struggled to overcome the future of tragedy she saw for her loved ones. In a battle between fate, free will, and love, Sebastian wove a tale that inspired me and left me excited for my evenings of wine and Shadows after work every day.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

In thinking of myself as less mainstream than other readers, I stayed away from Reid’s bestseller; however, when a friend gifted me Evelyn Hugo, I gave in. Defying all my expectations, I raced through the sordid tales and surprises of Evelyn Hugo’s life. No spoilers, but I was pleasantly surprised by the accessibility of an internationally renown actress, Hugo. In the slow uncovering of the real Evelyn Hugo, I found plot twists, family, and love where you least expected it.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I recently segued from summer into fall with a classic. With all the craziness concerning schools and the reemergence of COVID-19 cases, I retreated back into one of my favorite stories. The slow turning of Darcy, quick wit of Elizabeth, and familiarity of Lydia always comfort me during times of uncertainty. And what better way to finish off the book than by booting up the movie and ogling at goddess Kiera Knightly and her Mr. Darcy?

And there you have it! I would recommend any of these books to take your mind off the slowly ramping up semester.

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Katherine Santin

U Mass Amherst '22

Katherine is a Senior majoring in Legal Studies and English with a minor in Arabic. She loves animals, and spend time with her dog and horse when she's at home. Some of her other interests include hiking, kayaking, and writing. Feel free to follow her instagram: @ughkatie
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