I seem to have had a few Proustian moments with this novel as different smells and sounds brought me back to my youth just as the protagonist explores her past via her own book, The Book of Summers. Admittedly my own past was somewhat less eventful and less traumatic than that of Beth Lowe but I really enjoyed the atmosphere of nostalgia, the memories of summers past and, I think, despite the sadness, a certain optimism about the future all of which added up to an enjoyable read for me.
The "summers" of the title are the seven vacations which Beth spent with her mother, Marika, in Hungary. In the present-day narrative, thirty year old Beth is leading a very quiet, almost reclusive life, working in an art gallery in London, but the tranquillity is fractured when her father makes an impromptu visit bringing with him a parcel which, once opened, lets loose all the memories Beth has tried so hard to suppress. The Book of Summers is the scrapbook memoir which Marika had compiled over the seven summers Beth enjoyed with her in Hungary - memories of hot dry summers, bathing in ponds, first love, wandering in the wilds - all of which form a sharp contrast with home, a rather dreary Devon with a quite depressed Dad who can't really compete with the exotic wild whirlwind created by Marika.
Of course, such idyllic days were bound to be disrupted and you really feel for the young Beth/Erzi. Her only hope of closure as an adult is to relive those days via the Book of Summers.
"Once, when she was trying to explain why she'd returned to Hungary, Marika said, Sometimes if you don't go backward, you can't move forward."
This is an impressive, evocative debut which will transport the reader to another time, another place. I'm looking forward to reading more from this talented young writer.