If beach reads are those you tote with you to the beach (though let’s be clear, my beach days are all toting toddlers, and why is it ‘tote’ for the beach – like you never just carry something from your car to the sand, it has to be ‘toted’ I DIGRESS) what is the name for books you read in the dead of winter? For me it would be deep-bathtub-to-soak-the-cold-from-my-bones reads. I have this memory of reading The Kindly Ones almost exclusively in the bath in the winter of 2010 – memorable because it was close to 1000 pages and my bath was then (and now) Not Big – and probably because reading it was a purposeful diversion from the thesis writing I was meant to be doing.
[spoilers and sexual violence]
Now the diversion is from equally existential threats – will my floor ever not be covered in yogurt? (ha ha – we all know the threats are… much more substantive, but really, the menace of yogurt) – and the desire to sink in to anything else is high. And it’s So Cold. So we find ourselves with our bathtub read: That Summer by Jennifer Weiner – famous for beach reads. And it is one you can sink into with little effort and find yourself immersed (how far can I take this) in a decently plotted and reasonably thoughtful consideration of the long, irrevocable change wrought by a rape.
It follows Daisy and Diana and how their lives cross and the ways single events ricochet throughout the rest of their lives. It purposefully explores the privilege of class and gender – most clearly the threat of violence that underwrites too many sexual experiences and explicitly grapples with how #metoo upturned what many women took for granted as the way things were and had to be, and the safety of some men in imagining they could carry on being and doing horrendous things.
All while offering lush descriptions of Cape Code and picturesque cottages with bleached wood frames and outdoor showers. And too many descriptions of a pan fried steak. (for the record: one description of a pan fried steak is too many).
Where it doesn’t attempt any commentary and just takes for granted the assumed is in the whiteness of the book. And maybe that is fine, no book has to be all things or do all things. It just read as remarkably… focused on the particular threat for young white women running along a beach. Maybe more perplexing given the effort in the book to see the woman reading it – frustrated with a partner, irritated by a tween, struggling with Purpose and Meaning – and to myopically miss the possibility of additional complexity.
Anyway – probably all beach reads are marketed to rich white women (anyone written a Masters thesis on that?). But yes, this particular rich white woman needs another thing to read in the bath, so send me your suggestions.