Posted by: Kristi Tuck Austin | August 18, 2010

Richmond authors recommend: Diann Ducharme recommends beach reads

Good writers are great readers.  With that in mind, I track down local fiction authors for Richmond Authors Recommend, a series of author-recommended books on a variety of topics.  Our first installment ends the summer with a list of books to help us endure the heat beside the pool or ocean, so Diann Ducharme was the natural choice.

Diann knows about life at the beach.  She grew up near the Virginia coast, vacationed at the Outer Banks since the age of three, married her husband in Duck, North Carolina, and set her debut novel, The Outer Banks House, on the beaches of Nags Head in 1868.  The novel’s heroine, Abigail Sinclair, sees her summer at the family’s cottage, one of the first homes on the ocean side of Nags Head, with post-war sensibility:

Pelicans cruised like soldiers down the war zone of water, white-capped breakers marching and ebbing back, then crashing even harder.  A few large ships inched along the choppy horizon.

I didn’t get a beach vacation this year, but Diann’s descriptions brought the salt air and breaking waves into my air-conditioned living room for one relaxing afternoon.

Diann Ducharme recommends

photo by Eliza Bosworth

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: I love historical fiction, and this novel, written rather uniquely in a series of letters, takes place in World War II in both London and on the Nazi-occupied island of Guernsey. The characters are charming, and the sense of another place and time is acute. I was immersed completely, and it took me days to get over the feeling that I’d actually been to the island of Guernsey.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake: Yes, I have a thing for World War II fiction. This novel takes place in Franklin, Massachusetts, a small town at the end of Cape Cod, in 1940. The female characters—a postmistress, a newlywed doctor’s wife whose husband recently left for Europe, a radio reporter on the English front lines– are inspiring and often must make difficult choices, including when or when not to deliver an important piece of mail.

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III: This is a riveting story full of suspense. It details two very different families, contesting the ownership of a small house near the California shore. Perfect for just about one day (the time it took me to read it!) spent idly on the beach with a cooler of frosty beverages and snacks.

The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve: This book is also full of intrigue, as it concerns the murder of two Norwegian-born women living on the desolate island of Smuttynose on the Isles of Shoals, a group of islands off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire. The sense of place is chillingly powerful, and the characters are utterly fascinating.

The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate (two novels bound into one book) by Nancy Mitford: I love the wit and humor of English fiction (see book #1 above!), mostly because of these two wonderful books, written in 1945 and 1949, respectively. The characters are modeled on Mitford’s own eccentric family members, and the novels capture the bygone era of upper-crust life in England during the time between the World Wars. If there was one time and place in the past where I’d like to live, it would be at Alconleigh with these wonderfully vibrant people.

Ahab’s Wife, or the Star Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund: I am reading this book now, and I can’t wait to take it with me on my beach vacation! The compelling heroine (her name is Una) lives in many interesting places, including a Massachusetts lighthouse and a whaling ship. The language is poetically delicious and makes me want to write down my own observations of the world.

Thanks, Diann!  Be sure to check out Diann Ducharme’s The Outer Banks House, on sale now at Richmond bookstores.  If you want to meet Diann in person, she’s appearing across Richmond in the coming months.

Saturday, August 21, 2-4p.m. Book talk and signing at Barnes and Noble Libbie Place

Wednesday, September 29, 7p.m. Book talk and signing at Twin Hickory Library, Glen Allen

Tuesday & Wednesday, October 12 & 13, Book signing at the University of Richmond, Jepson Alumni Center

Come back Friday for a look at the Library of Virginia’s Books on Broad with Ellen Crosby, author of The Viognier Vendetta.


  1. […] You’ll find Diann’s book recommendations for River City Fiction here. […]

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