Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Summer of Secrets - Sarah Jasmon - atmospheric and nostalgic

The Blurb.....

One day she was there . . .

and the next day, the day after the fire, she was gone.

In the summer of 1983, when Helen is sixteen, Victoria Dover and her eccentric family move in next door, at once making her lonely world a more thrilling place. But the summer ends with a terrible tragedy, and everyone involved – her father and the entire Dover family – simply disappears.

Then one day, thirty years later, Victoria comes back.

A suspenseful, spell-binding coming-of-age story about young friendship, damaged families and how one simple action on a long, sultry summer can echo through the years.

My thoughts

Sarah Jasmon has written a stunning debut novel evocative of youth, the long hot days we all insist lasted all summer long, the search for friendship and acceptance and the ache of loneliness. It's almost a coming of age novel but it has a small part set now and a much greater part set in the 1970s.

The main character Helen really resonated with me, I am almost embarrassed to admit how much of her I could see myself in.

The part which begins in the present day sees Helen as an adult, she seems to have a pretty nice life, working in a bookshop with her own flat above it, it's only later in the book that the cracks begin to reveal themselves. She sees an advert for a photography exhibition which open the floodgates of memory and take her back to the time she was a teenager and one particular summer when everything began to change.

An only child with few friends living in a rather isolated old house (this was when the recognition began to ring bells with me) she is delighted to find a new family have moved in to one of the canalside cottages at the top of her road and when the first tentative inroads of friendship are made she grasps the chance to become involved with anothe family where live although hectic and erratic seems far more interesting than living at home largely ignored by her depressed father, following the departure of her Mother.

As summer passes she becomes embroiled in this rather hippy dippy families secrets and foibles and we can feel all is not going to end as well as we would hope for everyone concerned.

The writing is fabulously descriptive and amazingly atmospheric with a hazy dreamlike qaulity at times which nevertheless makes it all seem more like real memories which are never that clear but blur more as time passes. I love the nostalgic feel of the past and the languid pace which nevertheless kept me turning the pages. Reading this book is effortless and compelling. I loved this book, was really saddened how Helens life actually turns out especially as it seemed in so many ways her past emulated my childhood and had a huge lump in my throat by the final chapter as the past it creates is so authentic.

My huge thanks to the author Sarah Jasmon for providing me with a copy to read and review, via #bookconnectors.

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