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The Book of Summers [Hardcover]

Emylia Hall
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 2012

Beth Lowe has been sent a parcel.

Inside is a letter informing her that her long-estranged mother has died, and a scrapbook Beth has never seen before. Entitled The Book of Summers, it's stuffed with photographs and mementos complied by her mother to record the seven glorious childhood summers Beth spent in rural Hungary.

It was a time when she trod the tightrope between separated parents and two very different countries; her bewitching but imperfect Hungarian mother and her gentle, reticent English father; the dazzling house of a Hungarian artist and an empty-feeling cottage in deepest Devon. And it was a time that came to the most brutal of ends the year Beth turned sixteen.

Since then, Beth hasn't allowed herself to think about those years of her childhood. But the arrival of The Book of Summers brings the past tumbling back into the present; as vivid, painful and vital as ever.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755390830
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755390830
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 185,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A charming debut novel' (Woman's Own)

'[A] vivid coming-of-age story' (Woman & Home)

'A compelling coming-of-age story with a superb twist' (Easy Living)

'Emylia Hall creates an enchanting and vivid picture of Beth's summers in rural Hungary... It's an addictive read and an amazing debut for Emylia Hall' (

'Fab debut about a woman reliving the summers she spent in rural Hungary' (Heat)

'Heartfelt and evocative... all we need now is for summer to finally arrive' (Grazia)

'Fantastically evocative and sun-drenched with a twist, it's guaranteed a place on our summer holiday reading list' (

Book Description

The perfect summer read from a glorious new voice in commercial literary fiction

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving & Memorable 5 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is the story of quiet, placid Beth who we meet as an adult living and working in London. After a visit from her father who leaves her with a package, she realises that the handwriting of the address is that of Zoltan, the partner of her mother, and becomes aware that this must mean that her mother has died. She takes the package to the park and opens it to reveal a photographic scrapbook of the wonderful seven summers she spent with her mother, Marika, and Zoltan when she was a teenager. From here we go back in time to a holiday in Hungary when at the age of nine Marika announces that she isn't returning to Devon with them, leaving Beth and her father to go home and try to piece their lives together.

The chapters are made up of each summer that Beth has in Hungary with her mother and turn into a coming of age story for two weeks each year with one particular boy who attracts her attention. The descriptions of the village, smells, colours, dryness and the place she calls home for two weeks each year are vivid and bright.

We learn little, but enough, of Beth's life at home in Devon where she attends school and lives in a small cottage with her quiet, uncommunicative father. The characters are all beautifully created and totally believable. There are hints every now and then that something isn't quite right and I was totally gobsmacked by the revelation of Beth's past when it eventually came out. I found myself totally absorbed into Beth's life and loved, laughed and cried along with her.

This first novel from Emylia Hall is well written, flows smoothly and could quite easily have come from an old pro rather than a debut author. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend to anyone who likes a family story with foreign travel and an unexpected twist.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Past is a Foreign Country 27 April 2012
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful 11 Jan 2014
By Rene
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Book of Summers is a brilliant book that I just couldn't leave and finished it in just a few days. Emylia has done a great job keeping the readers interested in every little detail and what happened next. I myself could imagine the hot Hungarian summers and beautifully described Villa Serena and its surroundings. It's a book I'd strongly recommend everyone to read!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hungarian Summers 26 July 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Beth Lowe grew up with her wild and carefree Hungarian mother, Marika, and her quiet and reserved English father in the Devon countryside. Her life was turned upside down when Marika remained in Hungary following a family holiday when Beth was just 9-years-old. Still, for the next six years she travelled to visit her mother each summer until the year she turned sixteen when events revealed a reason she could never return.

Emylia Hall's début novel begins with the arrival of a letter informing Beth that her mother has died and a scrapbook entitled 'The Book of Summers,' containing photos of the seven glorious summers Beth enjoyed in Hungary. Almost the entire story takes place as Beth sits in a London park flicking through the pages, reminiscing on a childhood of rural Hungary filled with summer flowers, birdsong, cool lakes and a long-distance love. Hall paints a wonderful, vivid picture of the sights, sounds and smells of the summer setting as the reader is taken on a journey until secrets and lies are revealed. This novel is not particularly fast paced yet it is intriguing as the years go by, wondering what led to the painful separation of mother and daughter.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly enjoyable.
Beth Lowe has been sent a parcel.
Inside is a letter informing her that Marika, her long-estranged mother has died. There is a scrapbook Beth has never seen before. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Liz Wilkins
1.0 out of 5 stars Book of Summers
This book wasn't my cup of tea at all. I was on holiday and the reviews looked ok so I downloaded it. I was very disappointed. Read more
Published 9 months ago by DebJS
3.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous Descriptions, A Bit Thin Psychologically
Emylia Hall's first novel is a 'coming of age' novel in the style of Esther Freud, though without some of Freud's sharp perceptiveness. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Kate Hopkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read.
I just loved this book. It's the most moving story I've read for a long time and I read a lot of books! At one point I was choked with tears as it was just so sad. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Clara Stone
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but never quite reached full potential.
This was a book which started out really well, but for me it petered out a little about mid-way through. I loved the first few chapters: I think Emylia sets the scene brilliantly. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Laura Beth Gregory
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Read
The prose in this book delighted me. The journey made by the main character is not a simple one but poignant and engaging. Read more
Published 12 months ago by shirley hawkins
2.0 out of 5 stars Nonsense
I bought this book because my friends recommended it.

Unfortunately, I thought it was daft. Read more
Published 14 months ago by gillard2
2.0 out of 5 stars Selfish, self-centred protagonist ruined the story
I bought this after a brief visit to Hungary and was then massively disappointed. Although Devon, the Hungarian countryside and even Victoria Park in London are successfully evoked... Read more
Published 16 months ago by J. Cooper
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, poetic, moving
The story of a woman rediscovering the holidays of her childhood, and through them, discovering herself. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mark Shackelford
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book of Summers
This book was an absolute surprise for me. Taking place in both present and past times, spanning across countries, we follow Beth Lowe as she looks through a scrapbook sent from... Read more
Published 17 months ago by BSouls
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