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3 Chilly Novels to Beat the Summer Heat

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by Rebecca Bowyer (subscribe)
Writer, blogger, history buff. I love all things food, wine and kid related. Find me at
Published December 13th 2013
Imagine Your Way to a Cooler Climate
beat the summer heat
Find a better way to beat the summer heat (Image: Alex Proimos via Wikimedia Commons)
For most people the word "summer" conjures up visions of sunbathing by the sea, ice creams and mojitos at sunset.

For me, the threat of summer makes me want to hide in front of my air conditioner for fear of gritty sand in cracks where no granule should go, sticky melted sweet treats and sweaty cocktails in the burning sun.

If you prefer snowflakes over sunbathing, beat the summer heat and imagine yourself into a colder place with these three chilly novels set in lands of snow and ice.

Burial Rites Hannah Kent
Image: Pan Macmillan Australia
Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent
Pan Macmillan Australia 2013

That winter was so cold that I woke every morning with a fine dust of ice on my blanket, from my breath freezing and falling as I slept.

Australia's very own Hannah Kent chose northern Iceland to set her first novel, Burial Rites. Apart from being a brilliant, meticulously researched novel based on the true story of a young woman sentenced to death for gruesome murders in 1829, this is the coldest setting for a book outside of the North Pole itself.

During the long months between her sentencing and her execution, Agnes lives among the farmers of northern Iceland and recounts her tragic and moving life story to her chosen confessor and the family who reluctantly shelters her.

The questions burning in your mind throughout this novel will be whether Agnes is guilty or wrongly accused, but also whether she will survive the harsh winter to meet her executioner in the coming spring.


Housekeeping Marilynne Robinson
Image: Faber and Faber
Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, Inc USA 1980

Shivers flew when a swimmer surfaced, and the membrane of ice that formed where the ice was torn looked new, glassy, and black. All the swimmers came in. By evening the lake itself had sealed over.

The lyrical prose of this classic novel flows as smoothly as the icy lake it is set beside.

Having little to do with dusting and vacuuming, it traces the story of Ruth and her younger sister Lucille. Losing their mother early, they are cared for by a long line of female relatives who one by one die or leave until they are left with the transient, scattered but kind-hearted Sylvia.

The only stability in their lives in their location, living in their grandmother's house. The house was built by their grandfather who plunged to his death into the lake inside a derailed train.

The lake, the trains and the accident loom large in the imagery of this novel. Read it carefully, take your time and appreciate the story and the language.

Rosewater and Soda Bread Marsha Mehran
Image: Harper Collins Australia
Rosewater & Soda Bread, by Marsha Mehran
Harper Collins Australia 2008

... the only problem confronting decent folk was whether they should take an umbrella on the way out or brave unprotected the cold, pricking rain that plagued the western plains of Ireland eleven out of twelve months.

Ice and snow really do seem to bring out the doom and gloom in the plot lines. If you're looking for something a little more light-hearted, Marsha Mehran's Rosewater & Soda Bread is for you.

From the bestselling author of Pomegranate Soup and set in chilly Ireland, this book follows the story of three Iranian sisters as they put down roots in their new home town of Ballinacroagh. Marjan, Bahar and younger sister Layla challenge the small Catholic town with their heady-scented Persian cuisine at their Babylon Cafe.

The plot line offers a strange pale women with webbed feet washed up from the sea, romance and passion, journeys toward personal fulfilment and warm-hearted small town and family antics.
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Why? Because summer isn't everyone's cup of cocoa
When: Any time you get a moment to yourself
Where: Wherever you can find airconditioning and imagine yourself into a cooler climate
Cost: RRP ranges from $15 - $32.95
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