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The Summer of the Bear [Paperback]

Bella Pollen
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

12 May 2011

In the summer of 1979, a tamed grizzly bear is tempted by the lure of freedom and the wild open sea . . .

Meanwhile, the sudden death of British diplomat Nicky Fleming has left his wife closed down with shock. Relocated from Cold-War-riven Germany to a remote Hebridean island, Letty Fleming is haunted by the unthinkable – was it an accident, murder or suicide? And how can she ever begin to explain to her three children that their father may have betrayed his country?

Struggling to find solace in a place she loves, Letty begins to unravel the mystery of Nicky's death, but her determination to protect the children from the truth blinds her to the demons they are already battling.

As the family’s secrets threaten to tear them apart, it is only the strange but brilliant Jamie who manages to hold on to the one thing he knows for sure: his father has promised to return, and Nicky Fleming was a man who never broke a promise . . .

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Price For All Three: 19.97

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Pan (12 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330519069
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330519069
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 173,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Raised in New York , Bella Pollen is a writer and journalist who has contributed to a variety of publications, including American Vogue, The Spectator, The Times & The Sunday Telegraph.

Author of four previous novels, Midnight Cactus, Hunting Unicorns, Daydream Girl and All About Men, Pollen has tackled a broad spectrum of subjects from the decline of the British Aristocracy to the immigration issues of the US/Mexican Border.

With Summer of the Bear, Pollen returns to a place beloved of childhood holidays, an isolated and wind swept island off the west coast of Scotland where a young boy believes an escaped bear may hold the key to his diplomatic father's sudden death. Part mystery, part ghost story, part family drama, Pollen has delivered a riveting and magical story about a family rocked by loss and bereavement. Pollen is married with four children and divides her time between London and the American mid-west.

Product Description


'A fairytale of the adult world' --The Scotsman Review

'Part spy thriller and part ghost story, this book will keep you enthralled to the last page' --The Sunday Post

'A heartfelt and magical tale about a family coping with loss and fear' --SHE magazine

'A haunting, unsentimental look at estranged families and hidden magically melancholy...Tender and wistful, Pollen doesn't shy away from harsh truths, but at the heart of her story there's an unquenchable belief in love and redemption.' --Marie Claire

'Bewitching...a heartfelt, poignant novel' --Glamour

'Read it for it's emotional resonance.' --Tatler

'Part fairy-tale, part suspense-thriller this magical book grips hold of you, almost creating the sensation of an out-of-body experience - one that'll keep you holding your breath until the very last minute' --Easy Living magazine

'García Márquez meets le Carré meets - well, A.A. Milne at times, with hints of William Golding at others . . . moving, beautifully written . . . a sensitive and literate story told on several levels, all of them believable' Kirkus Starred Review

'A show stealing, fantastic portrayal of under parented children' Publishers Weekly

'A sweet, affecting, well-wrought tale of a family torn apart and then reunited . . . The Summer of the Bear will charm' Library journal

'A story with the spark of the unexpected . . . imaginative . . . readers will be captivated by Pollen's characters and the warmth with which her magical tale unfolds' Bookpage

'As Pollen sensitively and intricately takes each family member through painful stages of grief and longing, the mystery unravels to reveal a man forced to choose between protecting his family or his country' --Booklist USA

About the Author

Bella Pollen is a writer and journalist who has contributed to a wide variety of publications, including the Sunday Telegraph, American Vogue and the Observer. She is the author of four other novels, All About Men, Daydream Girl, Hunting Unicorns and Midnight Cactus. She lives in Ladbroke Grove, London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Secrets and Lies 14 Sep 2010
By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a beautiful little book, deceptively simple, yet filled with delightful turns of phrase and dialogue that has a capacity to get underneath all the characters and reveal their lives and emotions in all their complexity. The Fleming family's lives have been made that much more complicated by the death of the father, Nicky, a diplomat stationed in Bonn during the late seventies, while the Cold War is still raging (or intensifying, or freezing, or whatever a Cold War does). His death is considered a suicide and it raises questions about the nature of his activities, particularly one suspicious trip to Berlin with his daughter.

Finding it difficult to deal with the suspicions and insinuations, the family retreat to their residence in the Outer Hebrides, but they find that life isn't simplified by living in a small isolated community. The three children all have problems of their own growing-up, the girls Georgie and Alba reaching a certain difficult age, trying to find their place in the world and establish their own personalities. It's more complicated for Jaimie, the youngest boy, who has learning difficulties and may be autistic. None of them have processed the news of their father's death, least of all Jaimie, who believes that his father is lost but could have returned in the form of an escaped bear that is loose on the island.

Bella Pollen's writing and evocation of each of the characters and the big-little dramas of their lives is spellbinding, capturing the internal struggle within each of them, their actions and reactions, the secrets and the lies that each of them use as little self-deceptions in their daily lives to shore-up the illusions they need to keep going.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I remember that bear 13 Sep 2010
By Mrs. R.
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When the bear escaped in Scotland, it was being filmed for a Kleenex ad being made by the agency that employed me. Panic all round. I'd forgotten all about him. And here he is, featured in a rather beautiful novel.
Some novels hurl you straight into the action with an explosion. Other cover a lot of ground before they really kick off, and The Summer of the Bear is one of the second. I'd almost given up. Don't give up. It's a tense spy story, a story of love, loss and more love, how we cope when our worlds are broken up by death, then broken a bit more, then smashed to pieces, until we're just hanging on for the next minute hoping that it might be an improvement on the last. It's times like those when your mind might play tricks with you. The characters are real, even the most unusual and eccentric ones. The bear is definitely real, but it's down to us to decide how much of him is imaginary, created by an exhausted, confused young mind.
The writing is gentle, which is one of the reasons that the critical points which Bella Pollen makes are so shocking; they creep up on us and smack us unexpectedly. Do read it, even if you don't remember the bear.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and Witty 10 Feb 2011
Author Bella Pollen was holidaying in the Outer Hebrides in 1980 when a grizzly bear escaped from it's owners and spent 24 days roaming the tiny island of Benbecula. The grizzly never reverted to the wild and when it was eventually captured it had lost almost half of it's body weight. The story captured the attention of the world's media and Bella Pollen and her siblings spent an exciting summer hoping to be the ones who caught the bear. This story has remained with Pollen ever since and is the basis of this novel.

'The Summer of the Bear' tells the story of Letty and her three children who have just moved back to the windswept Scottish island after the death of Nicky - Letty's husband, the children's father and formally a British Diplomat and adored by his family. At the same time a bear has escaped from it's owner and is living somewhere on the island. The family are struggling to come to terms with Nicky's death which has been shrouded in secrecy. The death has been kept entirely from Jamie, the youngest and only boy - he struggles to understand where his Dada is, when is he coming back? Jamie soon convinces himself that the escaped bear is, in fact, his father.

With a really engaging plot, well thought out and well written and some superb characterisation, this book is not really about the missing bear or about the family, but more about communication and how the lack of communication and keeping things from each other can really have a terrible impact on people and families. At times the struggles of the family are really heartbreaking. The children trying to come to terms with a whole new life, a new home and no Dada and Letty struggling to put on a brave face whilst wondering just how Nicky died. Although very sad at times, there is also some wonderful humour.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect summer novel. 15 July 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I enjoyed every minute of this finely crafted novel. It's well constructed and beautifully written. After Nicky Fleming's mysterious and sudden death, Letty and their three children, Georgie, Alba and Jamie escape to the remote and windswept Outer Hebrides to come to terms with the bewildering loss of their father and husband. Nicky Fleming worked as a diplomat in Bonn, West Germany in 1980 at a time when the suspicions and threats of the Cold Wall are still very much in evidence. We return to Bonn many times throughout the novel to learn the secrets which Nicky has kept from his family and which caused his death.

The characters are all well-drawn and sympathetic: Letty as she struggles with grief and confusion about her husband's death, Georgie on the cusp of adulthood, Alba's cruelties and anger and Jamie's naive and magical way of thinking and seeing the world.

Meanwhile a tame bear has escaped from his wrestler owner and is loose on the island and weaves its way into the story in a magical and fascinating way.

As Nicky Fleming's secrets come to the surface the family, with help from a perfect cast of islanders, must come to terms with their grief and their new life.

I was hooked from the very first page of this novel and Pollen builds the drama nicely until it reaches a poignant and emotional climax. The scenery of the Hebridean islands is beautifully imagined and each character is finely drawn and individual. It's the perfect summer read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Bear
A dysfunctional family, a mysteriously dead father, a wonderful Hebridean setting - this is a lovely book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ned D
5.0 out of 5 stars Not disappointed
Everything I have come to expect from a Bella Pollen book. A wonderful story beautifully told a very enjoyable read.
Published 6 months ago by JOM
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Read this as part of a reading group so not my normal read but I enjoyed it and was interested to get to the end. Read more
Published 6 months ago by C J Lilley
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read
I thoroughly enjoyed this story based on a true event which I remember. Condition as described. Recommended to animal lovers.
Published 6 months ago by mandy trezise
4.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyable!
I thoroughly enjoyed it with the different elements, a spy story & different human emotions plus a bit of fantasy. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Benjamin J. Whitehouse
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put this down
So enjoyable an unexpected storyline and great characterization.
I will be recommending this to my mum and colleagues at work who enjoy a well written and thought out plot
Published 13 months ago by Sharon Starbuck
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing
Intriguing tale of a family coming to terms with bereavement and piecing together the circumstances of the death. Read more
Published 16 months ago by JoTownhead
3.0 out of 5 stars A nice easy read
Thought it rather disappointing after all the hype, it WAS a nice tale though. Is it really a child's/teen book?
Published 16 months ago by Jean Mallett
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read
This is a good book, well written, with interesting characters and a mystery running through it. It tells the story of the Fleming family who move to a remote Scottish island after... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Em13
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, life-affirming story of love and loss
I loved this book. From the blurb it sounded as though it might be a bit quirky, but really it wasn't and what it turned into was a life-affirming story of a family coping with the... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Nicola
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