The Next Chapter

Victor Dwyer's top 3 beach reads for the summer of 2019

The Next Chapter columnist Victor Dwyer has three juicy reads that pair perfectly with sand and surf.
Victor Dwyer is a columnist on The Next Chapter. (CBC, Riverhead Books, Simon & Schuster, Berkley)

Summer means it's time to hit the beach. The Next Chaptercolumnist Victor Dwyer has three juicy reads that pair perfectly with sand and surf.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

City of Girls is a novel by Elizabeth Gilbert. (Riverhead Books, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)

"It's a fun little romp. There's some heaviness to it, but in a in a very unbridled way. It starts just after a young woman named Vivian, who's from a rich family, has flunked out of Vassar College after a lot of drinking and carousing. The first line in the book is, 'In the summer of 1940 when I was 19 years old and an idiot, my parents sent me to live with my Aunt Peg who owned a theatre company in New York City.' The book is told from the point of view of an elderly Vivian. She's now in her 70s or 80s and she's looking back on what happened then. City of Girls is the name of a musical being put on at this company, but it's also a statement of how Vivian and her new friends and her Aunt Peg viewed New York City, which was kind of their stomping ground.

"Vivian's a libertine. Her motto is actually, 'You don't have to be a good girl to be a good person.' When she loses her virginity, her best friend who's a showgirl says to her, 'You'll never miss it.' And Vivian completely agrees. It's a real unapologetic sexual romp. It's interesting because she's looking back on an era when, for instance, diaphragms were illegal and only men could purchase condoms. It was really hard for women to enjoy their sexuality. She says, 'At some point in a woman's life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time.' She never apologizes for the love she has for sex."

The Last Resort by Marissa Stapley

The Last Resort is a novel by Marissa Stapley. (Eugene Choi, Simon & Schuster)

"The Last Resort is a place called The Harmony Resort in the Caribbean. It's got American owners, who are marriage counselors, and a range of Canadian guests, whose marriages are falling apart. The Harmony Resort is run by a couple, Grace and Miles. Miles is fairly central to the book. He's this charismatic, but unhinged, fundamentalist Christian. His all-inclusive does not include liquor. In fact, it turns out that Miles likes to rifle through people's luggage and steal the liquor and their meds and get relatively bombed and even starts putting the moves on some of the women he's counselling. It's an odd place. He's also got cameras on his guests 24 hours a day, which is creepy. Into this whole mix comes this huge hurricane and the wind starts to pick up. There's foreboding and darkness coming."

Gabriel's Inferno by Sylvain Reynard

Gabriel's Inferno is a novel by Sylvain Reynard. (Berkley)

"Sylvain Reynard is in fact a pen name. Gabriel's Inferno originated as Twilight fanfiction, became a book and was very popular with a swath of the population. It's about a University of Toronto professor. His specialty is Dante. His name is Gabriel from the title Gabriel's Inferno. It's basically about his excruciatingly long and inappropriate seduction of a grad student named Julia, who he refers to as Beatrice, the lifelong unrequited love of the poet Dante. Dante's Inferno has these nine circles of hell. The second circle was lust.

"The writing's a bit problematic, a bit shallow, in a kind of happy wild way. But I thought I'd do, in honour of the nine circles of hell, nine sentences from this book that give you a feel for the book. This is a 500+ page book. It's in many ways almost a chaste book. The whole thing is quite this unraveling and unfolding of this long seduction that finally happens. So here are the nine sentences:

She had never seen a professor as attractive as he before. Gabriel sighed watching her as the wine traveled down her long and elegant throat.

"You smell like vanilla," he remarked.

"It's my shampoo," she replied. 

He smiled and casually flexed his substantial arms. His chest hair poked out like a few blades of grass over the snowy weight of his shirt. He pulled her into his chest deepening the kiss and exploring her back through her pea coat. Her aggression delighted him. He reciprocated within reason. Gabriel loved her cries and they spurred him on, arousing him even more as if that were possible. His beautiful Beatrice was not a virgin anymore.

"I am recommending it because I was reading these three books at the same time and I kept wanting to get back to Gabriel's Inferno. It was one of those guilty pleasures. It's like Melrose Place on TV. The kind of movie you go to on a Saturday afternoon when life's been too heavy."

Victor Dwyer's comments have been edited for length and clarity.


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