I had a discussion with a friend recently about what makes someone associate a movie with a particular season. This started because I said that Catch Me if You Can is a Christmas movie (despite having little to do with Christmas) and Mean Girls is a Halloween movie (despite having a very famous Christmas scene). Sometimes, it’s simply about the ephemeral phenomena we like to call vibes. It’s not really explainable, but you know it when you see it—or, more accurately, feel it. So what makes a beach read, a beach read? Does it even require a beach?
Since we’re still in summer’s sweaty thrall, it appears a lot of us have beach books on the brain; Book Riot recently posted an article titled “What Makes a Book a Beach Read?” and it got me thinking. Imagine lying on a pineapple blanket in the hot summer sun, the sound of crashing waves sprinkled with the sound of laughter, eating a popsicle and trying to read Anna Karenina. The disconnect is too great. Basically, when you’re stretched out in the sun (or the shade), you don’t want your brain to be doing too much work.
Before I go on, let me address the elephant in the room. Oftentimes, “beach reads” are synonymous with “women’s fiction”: light, fluffy, romantic, nothing too strenuous. Of course, this assumption has blatantly sexist roots, assuming that “books by women, about women, are more likely to be considered “light reading.”’ But let’s say that this flavour of “women’s fiction” actually is light reading—is that even a problem? I did just say I don’t want to use my brain. Perhaps women have just unlocked another level of enjoyment with this genre? The tension between “women’s fiction” and “literary fiction”—and that fact that those are considered two different things—is at the core of Emily Henry’s new novel aptly titled Beach Read. The plot is ripe for rom-com goodness: a struggling writer of women’s fiction moves into the beach house next door to—gasp!—her literary rival since college. Of course, the rival is an attractive, successful man. But Emily Henry uses this tropey set-up to explore what makes something a “beach read”; her main characters agree to swap genres (heavy literary fiction for romance) to overcome their respective writers block, and in doing so learn the value of each. Not just a beach-set rom-com, Beach Read—as its blunt title suggests—is a meta exploration of its genre.
“Unable to perceive the shape of You,
I find You all around me.
Your presence fills my eyes with Your love,
It humbles my heart,
For You are everywhere”
The Oscar winner for best picture, Monster storyteller Guillermo del Toro’s latest movie The Shape of Water (see trailer) is an otherworldly tale about the unlikely bond between Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and an Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) who is captured in a high security lab during the Cold War era.
I was not too familiar with del Toro and his work–I did not even know who he was when I caught a glimpse of him in person shooting this movie in Hamilton. But this beautiful, imaginative, and playful story really captured me. The color of this movie is mostly blue-greenish, and there are many elements of water throughout. This visual arrangement echoes with the theme of the movie very well, and I can almost smell the seaweed and feel the damp air. I saw the movie twice in theater and enjoyed it both times. I noticed many pleasant details the second time, which added more depth to the story and the experience. Another highlight, in my opinion, is the amazing performance the actors carried out, especially Sally Hawkins as a mute woman. There are not a lot of characters in this movie but each of them are well developed and has distinct qualities which makes this more even more efficient in storytelling. There were many little moments that made me feel deeply connected with the characters.
The concept of this movie might seem odd in some ways, but ultimately, it is a universal story about loneliness, friendship, heartbreaks and love. There is also a novel by del Toro of the same title, released earlier this month. In the book, the characters are developed further for those who would like to delve more deeply into the story.
More by del Toro:
While I am all about the Chick Lit genre, every now and then I enjoy reading a book that makes my hair stand on end and keeps me at the edge of my seat. If you are one for Psychological Thrillers, here are my top picks:
Web of Angels by Lilian Nattel: A woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder looks for answers behind the suicide of a pregnant teenage girl, and what may be happening to her surviving younger sister.
Identical by Ellen Hopkins: An “All-American family” with a deep, dark secret.
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane: A U.S Marshall tasked with capturing an escaped convict ends up questioning his own sanity.
Before I Go To Sleep by S.J Watson: A woman with amnesia wakes up every morning unable to remember her past. Leaving herself clues, she slowly pieces together her life and starts to doubt the people closest to her.
Misery by Stephen King: A crazed fan saves the life of her favourite author, then holds him captive.