A wonderful book to read in the summer is Sybille Bedford’s A Legacy, though no matter your culinary accomplishments, you will be hard-pressed to duplicate the exquisite picnic put on by the aristocratic dilettante Jules von Felden. “Luncheon was laid on a bare pink marble under a trellis,” begins the thrilling passage. The fish are wiggling moments before they are ingested (Jules can’t fathom why his bourgeois in-laws, the rich, generous, Jewish Merzes, eat fish in a soufflé!). The picnic is one of the things I always like to recall in the book, and I suppose I am using the Whole Foods angle to push my favorite unappreciated novel as a beach read. A Legacy, which came out in 1956, is set in Germany in the years leading up to World War I. We meet Johannes von Felden, a gentle boy ruined by his experiences as a cadet in military school. Still, for me the most shocking scene is Jules’ unthinking betrayal of his real feelings for the Merzes in the choice of a gift. Bedford’s prose is lapidary (Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford thought so, too), so you simply must put her in your picnic hamper.
— Charlotte Hays is a senior fellow at Independent Women’s Forum.
Read more summer book recommendations here.