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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Secrets and Lies
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...
Published on 14 Sep 2010 by Keris Nine

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Family drama in remote Scotland
After the father dies in an accident in Germany, an English family consisting of the widow, two teenage girls, and a son of eight moves to the Outer Hebrides in Scotland where the family have a cottage. They all lived in 1980s (Cold War) Germany because Nicky, the father, was a diplomat for the British government there. His death is considered suspicious by his...
Published on 6 Jun 2011 by JudithAnn


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Secrets and Lies, 14 Sep 2010
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Summer of the Bear (Hardcover)
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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. The fostering of illusions applies as much to the big scale subject of the Cold War as much as it does the Flemings, and even the lives of the other minor characters on the island, and the author brings these all together with remarkable ease and a great deal of charm. It's so good that the depiction of the daily lives of the family is delightful on its own, and it really doesn't need the mystery and intrigue of the spy games to keep it engaging for the reader. Most people will want a resolution however, and the author provides one that should satisfy while retaining the delightful magical ambiguity of the presence of the bear, but it does feel a little too quickly and easily arrived at. Nonetheless, The Summer of the Bear is a wonderful, charming and entertaining book that should hold the reader in its considerable thrall and likely remain with them for some time afterwards.
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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. "Polymath" (London, England, UK.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Summer of the Bear (Hardcover)
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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
By 
Lincs Reader (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Summer of the Bear (Hardcover)
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. The islanders are so witty and funny, each islander has their own idea about the bear, some think it is the devil!

Gentle, absorbing, witty yet sad and with a hint of magic, this really is a very good read.
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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
By 
Charliecat (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Summer of the Bear (Hardcover)
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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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Summer of the Bear, by Bella Pollen, 5 Sep 2011
This review is from: The Summer of the Bear (Paperback)
What a wonderful read! In ` The Summer of The Bear', Bella Pollen makes use of authentic setting to develop a gripping plot, embracing thriller elements, shivers of The Cold War, family grief and teenage angst. Only someone with real knowledge of North Uist, its moods and elements could have captured the essence of the island so effectively, only someone who has lived in our community and been a part of it, could portray the characters so accurately and sensitively. Neighbours and friends in this corner of the island come to life through the pages of this novel! My one regret is that my lifelong friend, Rody, rabbit-catcher, purveyor of second hand furniture and spinner of ghostly tales is no longer alive to enjoy this mixture of fantasy and realism. He would have been so proud to be included in this tale of the bear. The parting reference to The Ministry of Defence suppressing a report on contamination at the rocket range in South Uist leaves us with much food for thought.

Annabella Barnett (nee MacKenzie) North Uist , Outer Hebrides
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just lovely!, 3 Oct 2010
By 
This review is from: The Summer of the Bear (Hardcover)
I won't outline the story - other reviews and the synopsis do that beautifully - but I will endorse the comments that this is a hauntingly beautiful and well-crafted simple little tale with characters that take shape on the page and pull you in. Easy to read with just enough suspense and intrigue with a deceptively clever uncontrived outcome. I hadn't read any Bella Pollen before this so bought it on the strength of the reviews and I am so glad I did; I couldn't put it down and the story will stay with me for much longer than the 2 days it required to read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gentle easy reading with just enough suspense, 25 Jun 2010
By 
CJ Craig (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Summer of the Bear (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a gentle, easy book to read with just enough suspense to keep you turning the pages. The development of characters is excellent and the story believable enough. Set mostly in the Outer Hebrides there are flashbacks to the diplomatic life in Bonn and East Berlin in the early 1980's, just before the end of the Cold War. Nicky, the husband dies in mysterious circumstancse but Letitia, his wife, refuses to believe it was suicide. Fleeing to the Outer Hebrides, her refuge and home, after leaving the diplomatic life in Bonn, she and her three children struggle to come to terms with life without husband and father.
And then there is the mysterious bear who flees his chains and swims to safety on the same, small island. Mysteriously tied to the life of this family the bear is present, in the background, without ever interfering and with none but the youngest, Jamie, believing the bear can be found. Teenage angst abounds with the seventeen and fourteen year old daughters. A good exploration of the effect of grief on children and the lies that adults tell that never work. A very pleasurable reading experience. Highly recommended for the holidays, especially on the beach.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Family drama in remote Scotland, 6 Jun 2011
By 
JudithAnn (Houten, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Summer of the Bear (Paperback)
After the father dies in an accident in Germany, an English family consisting of the widow, two teenage girls, and a son of eight moves to the Outer Hebrides in Scotland where the family have a cottage. They all lived in 1980s (Cold War) Germany because Nicky, the father, was a diplomat for the British government there. His death is considered suspicious by his colleagues.

Mother Letty is falling apart and cannot look after her children. Alba is the middle child and running wild. She is sulky and negative the whole time and bullies her small brother, Jamie. Georgie is the oldest child and seems to cope best.

Jamie hasn't quite understood what has happened to his father (or hasn't wanted to understand it) and believes his father has had an accident and has gone away (as he's been told "Your father is gone"). He keeps looking for his father everywhere and when a bear is on the loose on their Scottish Island, he believes it may be connected to his father.

Letty, even though she's almost catatonic with grief, manages to find out bit by bit what has happened to Nicky, her husband, and whether he's has been spying against his country, or is in fact, a hero.

This story started off well, with the family moving to Scotland after the death of the father. I love to read about remote places and this certainly was one. So I hoped to be swept away, virtually, by the wind and the sea. But unfortunately, this didn't happen for me. I could envisage the place and the weather quite well, but it was from a little distance, rather than directly in the story. In other words, I didn't feel "present" in the story.

The way the family was coping with the recent loss and the move to the remote island was described very well and was absolutely believable. The mother, Letty, did not have any energy to look after her children, Alba took it out on her young brother especially, Georgie went her own quiet way, and Jamie was searching for clues as to where his father had gone.

There was one major problem I had with the book, and that was the bear in the title. This was a rather anthropomorphic bear. For instance, it recognized that a piece of paper in a bottle was a map of Europe, it finds a wooden box from the Ukraine, Irish naval uniforms. It thinks walruses are interesting because they can explore ship wrecks.

This could work, if there were other elements of magical realism or other thinking animals. But just this one bear? It didn't work for me.

The story was built up well. I liked the family and wanted to know what would happen. It was an easy read and I read it within a few days. An original idea, for sure!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, 22 April 2011
By 
Welsh Annie (Wetherby) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Summer of the Bear (Hardcover)
This book was so slow at the start that I almost didn't get beyond my 50 page test. If you find the same, don't give up - it turns into an excellent book on all sorts of levels, and once it took off I couldn't put it down. First of all there's a family coping with grief at the death of a husband and father - all three children are complex, interesting, and exceptionally well drawn. Then there's the diplomatic story - why did Nicky Fleming die, and was he really a traitor? Mix in a touch of mysticism with the escaped bear, an environmental disaster in the making, some wonderful Hebridean characters and a nail-biting climax and you have a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Thanks to netgalley for the advance e-book copy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little slow to start, but ultimately satisfying, 8 July 2010
By 
T. SMEDLEY "terrysmedley" (Taunton UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Summer of the Bear (Hardcover)
This is a gentle book, the pace starts quite slowly and doesn't really pick up until the last quarter of the novel. That's not to say it doesn't have its charms though, the development of the characters is excellent, the easy way the story unfolds is strangely hypnotic and there is just enough intrigue to keep you reading on and frequently I found myself saying, 'just one more chapter...'

The story concerns a family who have somewhat slipped from grace from within British diplomatic circles, following the mysterious death of father/husband Nicky Fleming in Bonn. After initially fleeing to London, they subsequently find themselves on a remote Scotish island where they have ties. The setting is wonderfully described, with a suitably bizarre yet believable selection of locals, which give frequently amusing distractions.

The mother in our story, Letty, is still shell-shocked by the suspected suicide of her husband and what that may mean, her oldest daughter Georgie is getting glimpses of an adult life away from her cloying family, second daughter and middle child Alba is very angry with the world and in particular with her younger brother, Jamie, who is struggling with the relaity of the loss of his father and the ways of the world in general.

The flashbacks to Germany gradually tell our story and reveal what really occured and using the setting of 1980's cold war Europe is suitably claustrophobic. Then there is the whole angle in this book of the bear... Whether purely symbolic or supernatural is open to interpretation, but this aspect of this story is what elevates it above the usual tales of family strife and adversity over hardship. Not my usual kind of reading, but I did get a lot from this book, so would hapilly recommend.
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The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen (Paperback - 12 May 2011)
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