WellRead June Selection: Sunbathing by Isobel Beech

When this beauty landed on our desk and Laura proceeded to read it in less than 24 hours and then again the following weekend, we knew we had to share it with you all. Sunbathing is the debut novel from Isobel Beech, a former senior culture writer at VICE. It is a quiet and contained story, effortlessly readable and deeply moving, owing to its intuitive and elegant writing. We adored it!

Drawn from Beech's own experience of losing a parent to suicide, Sunbathing follows a young grieving woman from Melbourne to the Italian countryside, where she has been invited to stay with her friends in the lead up to their wedding. Despite being a novel about grief, this isn't always a sombre read. As the blurb promises, it's also about summertime in Italy, fresh vegetables from the garden, taking turns washing dishes, reading to each other, learning about cherry worms. There is a genuine warmth that radiates through the novel and there is joy to be found in its evocation of the Italian summer, particularly after a couple of years in intermittent lockdowns. It can be wryly funny too! As the summer passes, our nameless narrator learns that the everyday, ordinary things like learning to compost or carefully preparing a meal, can offer solace and hope and meaning. It felt a bit like catharsis in slow motion - a stunning thing to read.

Beech wrote in an article in The Guardian: "Writing about life offers companionship to the world beyond our own lives. It’s a room in which to feel things." We felt so much in this room that Beech has exquisitely crafted and we hope that you do too.

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