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That Burning Summer [Paperback]

Lydia Syson
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Oct 2013
Romney Marsh, July 1940. When invasion threatens, you have to grow up quickly. Sixteen-year-old Peggy has been putting on a brave face since the fall of France, but now the enemy is overhead, and the rules are changing all the time. Staying on the right side of the law proves harder than she expects when a plane crash-lands in the Marsh: it's Peggy who finds its pathetic, broken pilot; a young Polish man, Henryk, who stays hidden in a remote church, secretly cared for by Peggy. As something more blossoms between the two, Peggy's brother Ernest's curiosity peaks and other secrets come to light, forcing Peggy and Henryk to question all the loyalties and beliefs they thought they held dear. In one extraordinary summer the lives of two young people will change forever, in a tense and gripping historical drama from Lydia Syson, the author of the acclaimed A World Between Us.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hot Key Books (3 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1471400530
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471400537
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 511,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

REVIEWS: 'an outstanding debut novel for teenagers' THE GUARDIAN; 'Syson brings history to life' THE OBSERVER; 'a fantastic historical fiction debut' THE BOOKSELLER; 'a compelling story of politics and passion, bravery and love' BOOKTRUST

Read regular blogs at and find a wealth of background information about A WORLD BETWEEN US (Branford Boase Highly Commended, Guardian Children's Fiction Prize longlisted), THAT BURNING SUMMER and other work.

Lydia Syson is a fifth-generation North Londoner who now lives south of the river. Writing a novel was an early ambition, but it took a while to produce the Carnegie-nominated A WORLD BETWEEN US. In the meantime, she went from being a World Service radio listener in Botswana to a producer in London, leaving the BBC after her first child was born. Three more children later she wrote a biography of Britain's first fertility guru, DOCTOR OF LOVE: JAMES GRAHAM AND HIS CELESTIAL BED, telling the full story of the charismatic eighteenth-century 'electric' doctor. Getting to Timbuktu is still on the 'to do' list - explorers, poets and Timbuktu fever were the subject of the PhD she finished in 2003 - but the current humanitarian and political crisis in Mali makes that unlikely for some time. Recent travels have been closer to home: her latest YA novel for Hot Key Books, THAT BURNING SUMMER, is set mainly on Romney Marsh.

Product Description


Syson's...great strength is characterisation...A touching evocation of a desperate wartime romance, which evokes a vanished era of hardship and fortitude. -- Suzi Feay Financial Times Consistent excellence ... This is only the second novel from an author very much to look out for. -- Children's Books of the Year 2013 The Independent Beautifully evoking the atmosphere of a small rural community under threat, it simmers with tension and intensity Booktrust The burgeoning romance between the girl and the older, vulnerable man is beautifully and unsentimentally handled; this is a great novel for all those who like their history free of cliche, and who value human experience observed with non-judgmental clarity. Teach Secondary A wealth of history is entwined with the story of one family and a seemingly impossible romance ... THAT BURNING SUMMER is a refreshingly different war story ... But it is Syson's beautifully developed characters that make the history come to life. We Love This Book

About the Author

Lydia Syson is a fifth-generation North Londoner who now lives south of the river. She is working through her ambitions in a disorderly fashion. The publication of her first novel, A WORLD BETWEEN US, has taken a good few decades. During this time she went from being a BBC World Service radio listener in Botswana to a producer in London, and then became a non-medical doctor and mother of four. She also wrote a biography of Britain's first fertility guru, DOCTOR OF LOVE: JAMES GRAHAM AND HIS CELESTIAL BED, learning a lot about enlightenment sex in the process. Getting to Timbuktu is still on the 'to do' list - it's the subject of her PhD thesis - but bilingualism and Hollywood musical stardom are looking increasingly unlikely. You can follow Lydia on or on Twitter: @lydiasyson

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and unexpected 18 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'll confess to a slight WW2 fatigue which initially deterred me from reading this book. I felt I'd been there, done that on the home front at least. Well I was wrong. Not because That Burning Summer (1940) tells us anything we didn't necessarily know (though Britain's shameful post-war abandonment of the Poles still takes a lot of swallowing) but because Lydia Syson builds individual and believable characters who remind us that the war was different to every individual who endured it. I liked the unfinished story of the father who was a committed member of the peace Pledge Union, I liked the family strain, the airman who couldn't quite cope with unbelievable stress, I liked the desperate unconsummated teenage sex and I loved the younger brother Ernest, earnestly taking all instructions seriously, probably just this side of Aspergers but beautifully credible, comic and touching. The local detail of Romney Marsh made a fitting backdrop to a worthwhile, well-told tale.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lydia Syson knows her onions 20 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fascinating, fast-paced and gripping. A spot-on book for her core market. A worthy follow-up to A World Between US. Smart cookie.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great insight into rural England during WW2 2 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Many thanks to the Publisher for my review copy, this is in exchange for an honest review.

This is my first book by Lydia Syson and I have to say it has been a while since I've read any historical fiction. It's a nice break from the YA and paranormal books I've been reading lately. I've not really read many books on WW2, so when I had the chance to review this book I jumped at the opportunity. It was lovely to have a fresh perspective of life during the war. Peggy is such a delightful character and it was really nice to see how her feelings develop for Henryk, especially under such troubled times.

I shamefully did not realise of the Polish involvement with the RAF, there is such a minefield of information I do not know about this era. So as well as being a good story, this book is factual and helped me learn more about WW2.

A very interesting and information packed book. It really does set the scene for the time period and the way the war affected people and their beliefs. I like the tension and the secretiveness of the love story, who is not a sucker for love that has to push boundaries.

I am really pleased I have read this book. I will definitely read more books by this author as I love her writing style, it's easy and descriptive without bogging you down with too many facts.

A great insight into rural England during WW2, loved the forbidden romance element.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A different take on WW2 9 May 2014
Life for young people in a remote part of Kent under the threat of invasion by the Germans was a new angle on WW2 for me and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it. As in her book on the Spanish Civil War - A World Between Us - Lydia provides a wonderful combination of detailed research, characterisation and a young person's perspective. A more than good read.
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