What are your essential ingredients for a good summer holiday?

Do you need complete relaxation? An azure pool, cocktails on hand and a light sea breeze? Or are you an adrenalin junkie? Looking to spend your break climbing mountains and learning how to water-ski. Whatever your poison, for a reader one of the great delights in a vacation is choosing which books will be your companions in your suitcase as you travel to a new destination.

But how do you choose? With so many brilliant books out it can be overwhelming (and you’ve already read Brotherless Night and Doppelganger). So we’ve asked some good friends of the Women’s Prize which books they’d recommend as their top holiday reads. Not only are they voracious readers, reading hundreds of books a year, but they are passionate about sharing their favourite reads. If you’re looking for more of their reviews, head over to their social channels, linked in each review, and give them a follow.


by Catherine Newman

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Reviewed by Jenn, @Bookmarkonthewall

‘It’s so crushingly beautiful, being human’, the mother sighs, and the daughter rolls her eyes and says, ‘But also so terrible and ridiculous.’

‘Why do we love everyone so recklessly and then break our own hearts? And they don’t even break. They just swell, impossibly, with more love.’

This is a gorgeous summer read that is filled with moments of joy, humour, emotion and nostalgia. Rocky and her family spend every week during the summer on the beach in Cape Cod where they rent the same cottage for the past 20 years. This summer we experience the mixed emotions Rocky has as her children are adults but still young enough to need Rocky. She is caught between the past and present as well as anxious about what’s to come.

There is so much to love about this beautiful observant novel that really brings out the extraordinary in the ordinary and mundane moments of our lives. The relationships that we see between Rocky and her husband and her adult children feels so REAL. I loved just sitting in these tender family moments listening to their loving and witty banter. It’s so hard not to fall in love with Rocky who is the most wonderful woman, wife and mum! She is so open and vulnerable on the pages but she is also so loving, caring and accepting in the way she looks after her family.

As the narrative moves forward, we also gain insights into Rocky’s painful secrets. Newman navigates the stories of loss and grief with sensitivity and compassion. Despite these moments of bleakness and heavy and complex subject matters, the writing is still beautifully lighthearted.

Another wonderful read by @catherinewman (I loved We All Want Impossible Things last year). I will literally read anything this woman writes now!

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

The Most Fun We Ever Had

by Claire Lombardo

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Reviewed by Poppy, @Poppysreads

This book was breathtakingly incredible. It’s a wonderful family saga to just completely lose yourself in, and is perfect if you’re looking for a story to get stuck into on your next trip.

The Most Fun We Ever Had follows the Sorenson family. Marilyn and David have been married for 40 years and have such a deep, unbreakable love for one another. They have four daughters: Wendy, Violet, Liza and Grace; who each have their own flaws, traumas and secrets. The book brings you along on the tale of this family’s life, and you get to experience all their drama, chaos and beautiful yet troubled relationships alongside them. ⁣

Coming from a family of four kids, with parents who love each other very much, it was an interesting and moving experience to read this book as there were so many parallels with my own life. I absolutely adored the intimacy of the story, and the length of the book is so worth it to allow the reader to get to know the characters and the nuances of their relationships. I also loved the way that Lombardo showcased how subtle decisions and events can have huge impacts on children’s lives, and how there’s no such thing as ‘good parenting’. She also portrayed beautifully the messy reality of relationships, and how even the most deeply loving families and marriages have rough patches, and require work.

I could go on and on about this book for days. But to sum it up, I thought it was profoundly moving, completely engaging and engrossing, and just absolutely spectacular. I couldn’t recommend it enough! ⁣

The Hypocrite

by Jo Hamya

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Reviewed by Ben Mercer, @bcemercer

Jo Hamya’s second novel The Hypocrite should be your smart summer beach read of 2024.

There are a couple of concurrent narratives that unspool together. 16 year old Sophia and her divorced novelist father go on holiday, ostensibly to bond, but instead he dictates his new book for her to type before spending the evenings carousing. Then in a post-pandemic London, her initially proud father sits down to watch his daughter’s first play which he realises, to his horror, is based on their holiday a decade earlier while Sophia has lunch with her mother, worrying about his reaction.

It’s super smart, funny and nuanced – Hamya wanted to ‘write one massive grey area’ – not taking sides but testing your sympathies every which way and, like all the best summer books, it’s set somewhere sunny by the sea (the Greece bits not London!) I thought The Hypocrite was fantastic and raced through to the finish. You will too.

Hello Beautiful

by Ann Napolitano

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Reviewed by Sally, @WhatSallyReadNext

This was easily one of my favourite books that I had read last year! I love reading fiction focused on family across generations and decades, featuring characters that I feel connected with, and Hello Beautiful ticked all of those boxes for me.

The Padavano sisters Julia, Sylvie, Cecelia and Emeline have a close-knit bond growing up in an Italian-American neighbourhood with their parents. Julia dreams of having the perfect life with a husband and a family of her own, while Sylvie hopes to find the kind of love that she reads about, Cecelia is a budding artist and Emeline takes care of them all.

When Julia marries her college boyfriend William, she thinks that she is about to get the idyllic life she wanted. However, when William’s troubled past and upbringing catches up with him, it’s not Julia that he turns to but Sylvie, which tests the sisters’ loyalty for one another.

Written from the perspectives of multiple characters, it was interesting to read the different viewpoints and follow the development and growth of the characters as the book went along. I was particularly invested in the story arc involving Sylvie and William, and the challenges they faced. It was beautifully written, and was both a happy and emotional read for me. I’d highly recommend reading Hello Beautiful this summer!

Lula Dean’s Little Library of Banned Books

by Kirsten Miller

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Reviewed by Tilly, @TillyLovesBooks

This is a story about a Southern town which has let fear and hate seep in, after a woman desperate for attention makes it her mission to get lots of incredible books banned. But when someone switches the banned books back into Lula’s ‘little library of banned books’, it causes all sorts of trouble for the town!

What’s amazing about this novel is that it’s dealing with some seriously devastating subjects, yet it still retains its sense of humour and a mischievous spirit. It’s a bold and brilliant rallying cry of a book!

Tell Me Everything

by Elizabeth Strout

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Reviewed by Simon, @SavidgeReads

I am really looking forward to the new Elizabeth Strout Tell Me Everything coming in September. So I am planning a ‘summer of Strout’ in the coming weeks and months, I’ve read all the Lucy Barton books and can’t recommend those enough as summer reads, as I’m keen to meet Olive Kitteridge and Bob Burgess before they join Lucy in Strout’s forthcoming book. I am really looking forward to getting lost in the Strout-iverse.

There are Rivers in the Sky

by Elif Shafak

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Reviewed by Sarah, @WhatSarahReadNext

When Elif Shafak’s new book arrived in the post a few weeks ago, I remember thinking ‘Wow Sarah, Christmas has truly has come early’, a story about a lost poem, two great rivers and three unforgettable lives – all connected by a drop of water. In this unforgettable story, we have a long-forgotten poem, the Epic of Gilgamesh. In Victorian London, an extraordinary child is born at the edge of the Thames. The child, Arthur, is only chance of escaping poverty is his brilliant memory. His gift earns him a spot as an apprentice at a printing press (where he meets authors like Charles Dickens, I KNOW), where his world opens up far beyond the slums of London. One book soon sends him across the seas to Nineveh and its remains.

In 2014 Turkey, Narin, a Yazidi girl living by the River Tigris, waits to be baptised with water brought from Lalish in Iraq. The ceremony is interrupted and soon Narin and her grandmother must journey across war-torn lands in the hope of reaching the scared valley of their people. In 2018 London, broken-hearted Zaleekhah, a hydrologist, moves to a houseboat on the Thames to escaope the wreckage of her marriage. An unexpected connection to her homeland changes everything . A dazzling feat of storytelling from one of the greatest writers of our time, Spanning centuries, continents and cultures with water being central theme. Climate change, a heavily researched rich history with storytelling at its very best. This is hands down Elif’s most magical book to date. I’m calling it, this book is going to win many prizes.

The List of Suspicious Things

by Jennie Godfrey

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Reviewed by Jules, @thereadingpara

As a child of the 80s and a born and bred Yorkshire lass, as soon as I read the first line of this book, I knew I was going to love it. It invoked childhood memories of growing up in Yorkshire – the dialect, the accents and growing up in a small community.

The main character, Miv, is a very strong willed not quite teenager, who gets it in her mind that she can solve the case of the Yorkshire Ripper. She begins to make a list of suspicious characters and places in her town, roping in her not-so-keen-on-getting-involved friend, Sharon. Along the way, we meet the other residents of their small town, with many giggles and traumas along the way.

This is a book not to be spoiled by a long review. I want you to meet the characters and experience them for the first time within the pages of the book, just like I did. And what a wonderful journey you will have. You’ll laugh, you’ll gasp out loud and you’ll cry (more than once!).

A book so full of heart that your own will explode with the sheer joy of the goodness of humans, even when faced with pure evil in its many guises. And on top of all that, it carries a message to women that we should remember every day.

Bravo to Jennie Godfrey for an exceptional debut!