Don't be fooled into thinking that she's just going to sit and mope. Although it would be pushing it to describe Summertime as action-packed--too much of the novel takes place on the school run or in the knot garden for that--Venetia's life races along and the months soon skip past. There are three eccentric children to ferry about, the ex-husband and his Internet pet cemetery to contend with and a new neighbour--the elusive Hedley Sale, complete with monobrow and dandruff.
Written in a clipped diary style, Summertime is packed with moments city dwellers only dream about. Afternoons in the garden of a beautiful Norfolk cottage, impulsive trips to hear nightingales, Easter egg hunts and moonlit nights stuffed with stars. Although they're a privileged lot--the children tell jokes about Beethoven--they're endearing and lovers of Katie Fforde, Mavis Cheek and Joanna Trollope should snap this up. Especially if they're partial to a cheeky parrot with a fruity wolf whistle and a mean sense of rhythm.--Jane Honey --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Captures with a light touch the frustrations and indignities of single motherhood' (Sunday Telegraph 14/04/2002 2002-03-22)
'A light, bright and optimistic read... Throw yourself down on the sand, dive between those silken sheets or luxuriate on the shag-pile, and enjoy it - I certainly did' (Literary Review 2002-08-01)
'I love [Raffaella Barker's] books - so funny and acerbic; a very good thing in a woman' (Maggie O'Farrell in the Observer 2002-08-01)
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Find I have involuntarily closed my eyes, and grasped Felix with one hand while wrestling to steer with the other, and maintaining a stream of foul language: `Shit! Buggering hell and buckets of blood. Felix, are you sure you're all right? WATCH OUT!'
We have crashed. Not fatally, as we were only going about ten miles an hour, but firmly. Felix whistles under his breath. `Yes Mum, I'm fine. Did you mean to do that handbrake turn? It was really excellent.'
The front end of the car is buried in the grassy bank, as if sniffing keenly at primroses, and the body of the car has slewed at ninety degrees across the road. The same has happened to the purple and yellow truck, but the front of his vehicle is facing the other way, so the driver-side windows are next to each other. We both lean out. I am shaking with shock, he is grinding his teeth, flaring his nostrils and flashing his eyes dangerously. In a minute I expect he will begin yanking his hair out by the roots. I say the first thing that comes into my head.
`Well I don't know why you're looking so angry. You could have killed us. And it's Easter Sunday.'
This is the wrong thing to say.
`Mum, it was your fault,' mutters Felix. `You were on the wrong side of the road.'
Fortunately, the man does not hear this vital witness evidence as he is struggling to open his door and get out. This is impossible, as the vehicles are too close to one another. He hisses, `Oh, for Christ's sake,' and slides over to the other side to get out of the passenger door. Hear him from beyond the truck cursing, `This is absurd. How the hell did we get into this mess?'
He reappears in the driver's seat, and I notice that his eyebrows are long and thick and join in the middle like the bristles of an old-fashioned carpet sweeper. No wonder he looks so bad-tempered. He is also unshaven and has wild black hair sprouting around a thinly covered crown, and a very earthy-looking jacket with no sleeves, just trails of unravelling string around the armholes. Presume he is a son of the pig farmer down the road, and make a suggestion.
`What if you walk home and get someone to bring a tractor?'
`Why don't you?' he says, rudely.
Answer very reasonably, rather enjoying the sensation of maintaining calm good humour in the face of his wild wrath, `Well, I haven't got a tractor, and anyway, your truck's in the way, and I wish you'd move it because I need to get home to cook lunch. We're having an Easter-egg hunt this afternoon.'
Felix has climbed out of the sunroof and is inspecting the bank behind me. I am certainly not getting out. A nightie is fine for church, but it's not my garment of choice for a traffic incident. Pull the tweed coat close about me, and wish it was fur. Would then feel grand and Cruella-like, and would be able to get the better of this rudester. His shirt is missing a couple of buttons and he has a melted-looking ring on his wedding finger. In fact, it looks very like one of the mourning rings made by Charles's company, Heavenly Petting. He grips his steering wheel and the skin on his knuckles seems to slide back until bone white shows. Decide not to ask him about the ring, he looks too cross. He leans towards me through the window again, eyes glinting, and says between clenched teeth, `What makes you think I have a tractor?'
I am fed up with all this now, and just want to get home. Am beginning to think that this is not a junior pig farmer at all, but in fact a free-range psychopath, and am anxious to make my escape. Felix pokes his head in through my window like a traffic warden.
`Mum, if you go backwards first, you can do a three-million-point turn and get out. Hey, look. He's got one of Dad's Heavenly Petting rings. It's one of the ones I designed for small rodents. It costs three ninety-nine and you can buy it in Argos, Asda or any good pet shop.'
Felix is good on the Heavenly Petting sales mantra. I wonder if Charles gets him out on the road with him when he has the children for the weekend. I can just imagine him forcing Felix, Giles and The Beauty to wear ties and carry plastic briefcases full of his wares in order to go doorstepping in Cambridge. He wouldn't dare do it to the twins, Helena would never allow it, but as ex- rather than present wife, I have no power on weekends away.
Come back to the present to find Felix standing on the truck's running board, interviewing the driver about his dead animals. `Oh, I see. It wasn't your guinea pig. It was your stepdaughter's. Did she get a ring for her cat when it died, or did she just go for a garden burial and nothing to commemorate? You know we've gone on the Internet now. You can look it up. It's called deaddog.com and I thought of it and we've registered it and ...' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.