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A Summer of Drowning Hardcover – 9 Jun 2011


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (9 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 022406178X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224061780
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.8 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 294,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

`A beautiful and haunting book...A charming and deeply imaginative novel.' --Aesthetica

`Lyrical in his descriptions on the land of the midnight sun' --Daily Mail

`Burnside's prose has been frequently praised for its clarity, poetic sonority and fine cadences. It is certainly so here ... A Summer of Drowning marries philosophical meditation with the gooseflesh verve of a thriller' --Scotland on Sunday

'It's very, very rare for a writer to be equally good at poems and novels. John Burnside is. He's a brilliant poet, a brilliant memoirist, and a brilliant novelist ... There are, says Liv, "two kinds of seeing". One is about finding "what we have always been told is there". The other is about going "out alone in the world", like "a boy going out into the fields, or along the shore" who finds that "something creeps in at the edge of his vision". John Burnside is breathtakingly good at both' --The Independent

`The most defining aspect of Burnside's work aside from its linguistic exactness is the beauty of his prose. Quite simply, he is a wonderful writer. Whatever he is writing always seems real and, considering much of the content of this new novel, that is a considerable asset for any storyteller' --Irish Times

`memorable, atmospheric and compelling' --TLS

`Burnside allows the ambiguity to remain in a hauntingly memorable book.' --Sunday Times

`The novel invites you to view storytelling as akin to madness...In a book that often makes coded reference to itself to provoke serious thought as to what fiction is about, this counts as a joke. Its evasions may discomfit those who like to know exactly where they stand, but those who enjoy being teased as well as spooked should relish an eerie, ethereal novel that alludes to Lewis Carroll and uses methods of Hitchcock and David Lynch' --Daily Telegraph

`In this beautifully sustained novel madness, mystery and myth-making collide. Burnside has an eerie attunement to the ineffable nature of existence and the fictions we construct to navigate and explain it' --Financial Times

`Burnside is an accomplished and careful writer. And this is a beautiful book, compelling and strange.'
--The Times

`Unsettling, hauntingly memorable tale.' --The Sunday Times

`Written with deceptive elegance, riddled with gaps and non sequiturs and a clever travesty of several genres, this is a disturbing, provocative book'. --The Guardian

Book Description

A terrifying and dream-like new novel from one of our greatest contemporary writers.

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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By SouthScot on 21 Sept. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Totally engrossing story deep into the thoughts, feelings, sensings of a young solitary Norwegian woman living in a remote island in the far north. Ostensibly it's a story about a number of tragic events that occurred in summer in the insomnia-inducing time of midnight sun, but these actually play a more peripheral role than you might imagine. This is no Nordic crime thriller, but a much deeper exploration of psyche and perception.

It's set in a hallucinatory, dreamlike environment and the story reflects these qualities too. Everything is told from the viewpoint of the girl, Liv, with few outside anchors to corroborate her, so the atmosphere is both unsettling and claustrophobic. It's difficult to be sure of what we are told and at times almost everything seems uncertain. Are these criminal events? Is it the fantasy of a too solitary and isolated girl? Is it a descent into madness? Are supernatural events occurring?

Some of the descriptions are extremely intense, particularly of the landscape in the midnight sun or middnattsol with its "white nights", and of the interactions from time to time with other people. The language is beautiful and there's a real atmosphere conjured up of magic and claustrophobia. Liv seems extremely perceptive, able to sense with uncanny accuracy what others are thinking and feeling, why they behave as they do, what they will do next, almost before they do themselves. It's actually quite a shock then when her perceptiveness seems to fail her on a key rare occasion.

This is a great novel but I'm slightly in two minds about recommending it. It won't be for everyone. First, if you're looking for a crime story this is not it.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER on 9 Dec. 2011
Format: Hardcover
"A Summer of Drowning" is a book in which for much of the time not a lot happens - but always spookily. Set on the Norwegian island of Kvaløya in the Arctic Circle, the story is narrated by Liv who is now 28 but who recalls events of a summer when she was 18. Liv resides with her artist mother in, if not isolation, then certainly seclusion. The book makes much of the midsummer madness that 24 hour daylight induces and in that respect it is wholly successful. It aims for a dream-like and timeless quality which it largely achieves.

Part of the problem for me was Liv herself. She's an odd character and I never really warmed to her. It occurred to me very early on in the book that there's something not right about her - but what? And did that deserve sympathy or just plain irritation? She makes out that her location is part of her reason for avoiding people, but it seems more than that. She has just finished school but has no friends, apart from an old man, Kyrre Opdahl, who regales her with mythical stories. She repeats herself, well, repeatedly. Partly this is down to the fact that she is exploring her feelings a decade ago so often almost argues with herself about how she felt. The problem I had with this is that it slows down any action and makes it all one-paced.

Yet, while this is a little irritating, what it effectively does very well is to create a level of tension and spookiness to the whole thing. The cover blurb identifies that two brothers died that summer, one was in Liv's class at school and one was his younger brother, but if this leads to you expect a mystery type novel, it's far from that. It's much more mysterious which is part of its charm and it is oddly compelling, but also part of what I found slightly irritating about it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By OvidMet on 26 April 2012
Format: Paperback
When I read the reviews of John Burnside's A Summer of Drowning, I knew I had to read it.
It conveyed the atmosphere of what it must be like to live so far north, where daylight is endless. The sense of place, and the atmosphere of the 'uncanny' and mystery are excellent. I've been left thinking about it and trying to put logic on it - I think that it will live on in my mind.
Very evocative and beautiful, and I very much recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By CLEMMIE on 5 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
A Summer of DrowningThis story is set in the island of Kvaløya in the Arctic Circle of Norway. It deals with the events that unfold gently over the summer where it can be difficult to separate the old Norwegian tales from reality and the 21st century. The characters are isolated in location and their activities but their very solitude is suited to their own personal selfish ideals of life. The central character knows no other way of life as she has had a very solitary upbringing both physically and emotionally and her inherited artistic creativity is entwined with her understanding of what has happened when two boys drown. What we are left to think about is just what is artistic interpretation of events and how much has been influenced by her very narrow field of emotion. It seems to me that the whole story is about the isolation and the effect on mental stability. I loved it as just that. A mind book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By bookworm on 15 April 2012
Format: Paperback
I would have given this five stars, but for the completely misleading blurb on the back cover. As others have mentioned, the blurb suggests that this will be something Wallander-esque, and I have to say that this is why I picked it up. It's nothing at all like that, but I still really enjoyed it, as I am fascinated by solitary people, creative people, introverted people, and this story definitely explores this type of personality in an extremely remote setting.
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