Monday, June 6, 2011

Save the Date: day specific reads

Seasonal reading is sometimes a thing: beach books in the summer, Christmas themed books in December. What about date specific reading?

Given the date, it's unsurprising that the first book I'll mention is The Sixth of June by Lionel Shapiro. This 1955 novel by a Canadian born author who was a World War II soldier and participated in the D-Day beach landings, won the Governor General's Award for Fiction. The book jacket describes it as "A powerful novel of love and war set against the background of England in the blitz" and which builds to a powerful climax on D-Day.

Unsurprisingly, most date specific reads are tied to events: often historical days which are famous (or infamous) enough for readers to know exactly what the author is referring to through the date specific title. A Fifth of November by Paul West takes readers back to the 1605 Gunpowder Plot against British Parliament in a book that Publisher's Weekly said "strips away the touristy quaintness surrounding the English customs of Guy Fawkes Day... to reveal persecution, malice and a very modern paranoid style beneath the cause for the merriment."

Some date specific books don't give the date itself, but rather the popular name for a date. The Ides of March by Valerio Massimo Manfredi sets the scene of March 15, 44BC, the date of Julius Ceasar's assassination. Manfredi's historical thriller has action aplenty for fans of fiction set in that era.

Lee Harris
' mystery novel April Fools Day Murder might seem lighter by comparison, but for the main character—a man who fakes his death as an April Fool's Day joke only to be murdered for real later in the day—it's no laughing matter. Harris' mystery is the 13th in the Christine Bennett series about an ex-nun turned detective, and incidentally all the titles are named after notable days.

I was really hoping when I sat down to compile titles for this post to come across a book named after an arbitrary calendar day that has no ties to anything in particular. The closest I came was December 6 by bestselling suspense author Martin Cruz Smith. The book isn't tied to December 6th events that Canadians are unlikely to forget, but it is also not a randomly selected day. This historical novel set in Japan, follows the events in Toyko in the day preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In the end I think my favourite concept for a date specific read is one that refers to a specific day, but in a broad way. An 8th of August by Dawn Turner Trice has a wonderful premise: a small town in Illinois celebrates the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation with a festival each August 8th. On August 8th, 1986 the town readies for that year's festival, but harkens back to tragic events at the previous year's celebrations as well as to the memories of August 8th's through out the town's history. Well drawn characters are the focus of this story of families, history, tragedy and strength.

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