Title: The Book of Summers
Author: Emylia Hall
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Beth Lowe has been sent a parcel. Inside is a letter informing her that her long-estranged mother has died, and a scrapbook Beth has never seen before. Entitled The Book of Summers, it’s stuffed with photographs and mementos complied by her mother to record the seven glorious childhood summers Beth spent in rural Hungary.
It was a time when she trod the tightrope between separated parents and two very different countries; her bewitching but imperfect Hungarian mother and her gentle, reticent English father; the dazzling house of a Hungarian artist and an empty-feeling cottage in deepest Devon. And it was a time that came to the most brutal of ends the year Beth turned sixteen. Since then, Beth hasn’t allowed herself to think about those years of her childhood. But the arrival of The Book of Summers brings the past tumbling back into the present; as vivid, painful and vital as ever. .
The book opens with Beth waiting for her father to visit; straight away the understanding is that while they are on friendly terms getting together is infrequent and uncomfortable. When he mentions he has a parcel from Hungary she gets really angry. Very quickly we discover that both of them are estranged from her mother, Marika, to the point that her very name is not mentioned by either of them. The tension that gently but irrevocably builds up throughout the story has started – why is there an emotional barrier between Beth and her father? What has Marika done to be banned from her life, and the life of her father? What is in the parcel? That is the easy part – in the parcel is The Book of Summers a scrapbook kept by Marika of the six wonderful summers that Beth spent in Hungary after Marika and her father separated. As Beth looks at the scrapbook she remembers what happens and the story is revealed.
It is not often that I keep record of quotes that I like from a book – I make an exception with this one – as the words speak the truth and both of these excerpts appear in the first little bit of the book and give an example of why the story seduced me:
From page 9: “…There is a sad kind of poetry in the unsuspecting. For every catastrophe that befalls us there was a time before when we were quite oblivious. Little did we know how happy we were then…”
From page 17 “…I know this much: the old hurts never go. In fact they’re the things that shape us, they’re the things we look to, when we turn out roughshod and messy at the edges…”
The Book of Summers is a slow-paced poetic, lyrical, meandering story, full of emotion and nostalgia, an utter delight to read. All the characters are vividly portrayed, I could ‘see’ them each time they appeared on the pages. While not fast paced the story just immerses you, drawing you into the story, revealing information bit by bit but not so much that the ending can be guessed. And what an ending, it was so unexpected and so unpredictable. I did not see it coming at all. I hope there will be more books soon.
Rating: A – Excellent. I could not put it down.
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