5 Summer Read Recommendations from Author Jayne Tuttle

Whether you're heading overseas, road tripping for hours on-end or searching for the perfect escape from the school holiday chaos, look no further than a brand new book to keep you company. 

To help take the heat out of choosing, we’ve bought in independent author, actress and bookstore owner Jayne Tuttle to offer up her top suggestions for the summer!

1. Hi Jayne, thank you so much for spending the time to chat with us today. Please introduce yourself! 

Such a pleasure! I’m Jayne Tuttle, I write books, perform plays and run The Bookshop at Queenscliff.

2. Can you give us your top summer reading list suggestions? 

Sure! First and foremost, my favourite all-time summer read - The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. I have an old hardback version and every year at the start of the season, I reread it. It’s this story of a grandmother and her granddaughter over one summer on a Finnish island, with its storms and sunshine. It’s got this dry Scandinavian simplicity and humour and unsentimentality; the brutal honesty of age and youth. 

My favourite read this year was hands down Sophie Cunningham’s This Devastating Fever. The subject in Leonard Woolf, interesting enough in itself, was outplayed by Cunningham’s writerly abandon, fuelled by climate angst, Covid-delirium and a general end-of-the world drive that made for a wild ride full of energy, passion and experimentation. 

As wild and hot as Cunningham’s book was, Jessica Au’s ‘Cold Enough for Snow’ was a masterpiece in gentle, sparing prose that had me just as hooked. A simple premise: a girl and her mother in Japan for a vacation. Dialogue and detail painstakingly placed and paced … I savoured every word.

I loved Nightbitch. A mother finds herself turning into a dog at night. Sprouting hair on the back of her neck. Lusting for raw meat. This came out in 2021 but I read it early in 2022 and it set a great pace for the rest of the year’s reading. The premise is so fun, so fleshy, it doesn’t even matter that it doesn’t quite sustain itself in the end. I love books that take this risk of falling right off the cliff. Super fun beach read. 

I also loved Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri - again not a 2022 new release, but a brilliant read that led me to read all her other books. Lahiri’s first two languages are English and Bengali yet she wrote this book (like her others) in Italian, and had it translated, not by herself, in order to keep it is naive authenticity. The result is book with an intriguing distance to it, as an unnamed narrator drifts around the Italian city she lives in … unaffected and raw, the writing taps into a new kind of consciousness.

3. In 2019 you became the owner of The Bookshop At Queenscliff! Tell us about this journey so far and what inspired you to take on this venture?

We bought the bookshop while we were living overseas in 2019 … off gumtree! Ha. We loved that bookshop and when we heard it was for sale, we were desperate for it not to disappear. So … we bought it and moved back to Queenscliff - thank God - as it was such a peaceful place to spend the Covid period. We are passionate book-lovers so every day in the bookshop is a thrill and an adventure. And the community is hugely book-passionate so that makes it all the more fun to fill it with wild and wonderful stuff.

3. A huge congratulations on releasing two of your very own books over the past 4 years! What inspired you to become an author?

Thanks! I was always writing things - short stories, plays, notes - but it wasn’t until I had a ghastly life-threatening accident and couldn’t perform for some time that I really started to knuckle down on it. I began to revel in the solitude of it - after working collaboratively most my life I suddenly was the only driver of my ideas and I found I quite liked it. So I started compiling my rough notes and thoughts into a first book, which became Paris or Die. But there was more to tell. So then came My Sweet Guillotine. And then ...

4. Tell us about Paris or Die and My Sweet Guillotine!

Both books are set in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, starting from when young Jayne arrives to study theatre at the famous École Jacques Lecoq, just after the death of her mother. Young Jayne powers through her grief by burying herself in school, new friendships, a relationship with a fairytale Frenchman. Leading her to one strange night on a stairwell, where she is near-guillotined in an ancient stairwell ... 

My Sweet Guillotine follows Jayne’s return to Paris after the accident, attempting to move ahead with life and work in theatre as though nothing has happened. But Paris, again, has its own plans. 

I really wanted to show another side to Paris, this place we all see as a shiny dream. I wanted to get beneath the city, explore the student/artistic life, the dirty streets, the colourful characters, the strange rules, the harshness of it and yet the wonder inside it all.

6. Where are your favourite coastal locations to relax and enjoy a summer read? 

Ooh don’t tell anyone but Maytone beach in Queenscliff is pure heaven on earth. Or a rug in my overgrown backyard. Or Apollo Bay. Or Port Fairy.

7. And if you have to choose, what would be your favourite book of ALL time?

Arghhhh mean! I would say The Summer Book but I already did. So how about this. Happy Days by Samuel Beckett. It’s a play but I read and reread it. Optimism fascinates me. Women. Time. The absurdity of life.