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4.7 out of 5 stars182
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on 28 January 2013
I know that I am extremely late to the party for this book but I completely fell in love with it. Clarissa and Tom's story will stay with me forever.
I don't want to ruin the plot for anyone else so I shall be careful what I say but I really want to emphasise just how wonderful the story is that Judith Kinghorn has written.
Clarissa and Tom's story begins in the summer of 1914. They come from very different worlds; Clarissa has grown up at Deyning Park surrounded by wealth and luxury whereas Tom is the son of the housekeeper. Although their lives are very different, their connection is instant, a connections they will never lose.
Judith Kinghorn brilliantly captures the change taking place at the time. The world is at war, men are fighting alongside each other; it doesn't matter where you came from, just which side you're on. Clarissa and Tom are caught up in these changes. Clarissa's mother forbids her relationship with Tom; however much she can see a future, Clarissa will not disobey her mother and this leads to devastating consequences. Clarissa is very young and this leads her to make so many mistakes. She comes from a world where you behave in a certain way and you marry certain people. There were so many times when I could see her going down the wrong path out of her sense of duty and I just wanted to drag her back!
The Last Summer explores the aftermath of war, the way it changed society, the way men were damaged both physically and mentally. Women gained a lot of independence during the war, many worked for the first time and this caused problems during peace time.
I did fall in love with Tom Cuthbert. He is besotted with Clarissa and is determined to make something of himself. However, whatever he does always comes back to Clarissa, it's all for her, whether she is his or not.
Judith Kinghorn has an excellent writing style. I really liked the way she used concise sentences and repetition to get her point across. The dialogue between Clarissa and Tom was particularly realistic, it often felt like you were eaves dropping on a personal conversation.
I know many of you have already read this beautiful book but for those who haven't then please, please do. The Last Summer is a superbly written, poignant read, I simply loved it.
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on 15 September 2012
If you're considering buying The Last Summer, there's a good chance you'll already have an idea of the (relatively) familiar setting and the kind of book it is. To be honest, the only reason I ever read reviews like this is if I'm undecided on purchasing the book, or have just finished it and am interested in what others thought. If you fall into the former category, then let me first off wholeheartedly recommend you take the plunge and buy it. As to why - well, here are some of the elements which, for me, made it thoroughly enjoyable.

The love story that unfolds between Clarissa Granville and Tom Cuthbert is as tempestuous and engrossing a tale as you could wish to lose yourself in and, as such, is beset by appropriately daunting obstacles. The story twist and turns, just as you'd expect, and I enjoyed guessing the odd point that I thought I'd seen being flagged up ("is that a gun on the wall, Mr Chekov?") though most of these came as a pleasing surprise and the last of all elicited a proper "No!" from me.

Obviously World War One has been mined countless times as material for stories like The Last Summer, but there were details in this that I had either never heard of - such as the blue notes Clarissa encounters while working as a nurse - or had simply never considered, like the developing atmosphere on the streets as news of the long-awaited armistice broke.

There is some really beautiful writing here, lyrical and intelligent, often capturing moments of emotional complexity. A passage describing unexpected reactions to the news of yet more men killed at war, from a populace already swamped in grief and running out of ways to absorb it was, to me, particularly striking and effective. Similarly, the novel concludes on an observation that is at once poignant, thought-provoking and very uplifting.

What really made The Last Summer a great pleasure though, was the deft humour with which the characters were endowed and the story handled. In the last third of the book, the author is brave enough to let the plot breathe for a chapter and send Clarissa off on a clandestine drive to Deyning, her former home, tiptoeing through the bushes to the boathouse where she and Tom have shared past trysts. It advances the story, but is moreover a wonderfully funny interlude, with the heroine mortified at being taken for an intruder who's sneaked into the great house intent on an illicit paddle (I'm not giving away the author's own phrase here as it's brilliant).

I mentioned the familiarity of the setting - WWI aside, there are echoes of Heathcliff and Cathy (the socially inferior lover), Brideshead (the sprawling, baroque country house with a character all its own), and the lovers in the boathouse brought to mind Alec Scudder and the titular protagonist of Maurice. Yet as fun as it is to note these, Judith Kinghorn's tale and her storytelling feel as fresh as a daisy and the best reason of all I can give you to buy this is that it is a deeply satisfying and rewarding read.
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on 24 January 2012
I love this book. Judith Kinghorn's tells the moving and poignant story of inquisitive and endearing Clarissa, poised to become a woman and inherit the future her parents have dreamt for her. But then, WW1 is declared and suddenly, the world order she thinks she'll inherit has gone forever. This is a brilliantly written moving love story set against the epic backdrop of war and Clarissa's love of her family home Deyning Park. Brought to life with wonderful little details and a thwarted romance that will set your heart pounding, the story sweeps you up and transports you back in time. Lovers of Sebastian Faulk's 'Birdsong', Brideshead Revisited or Downton Abbey will get another 'hit' here. Buy this book for your Mum and your sister, then curl up under a duvet with a box of tissues and read your own. 'The Last Summer' deserves to be a massive hit.
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on 18 February 2013
I loved this book, so much so that I had to slow myself down when reading it and try to make it last. I could have easily read it in one sitting but wanted to savour it instead.
The Last Summer begins in England on the cusp of World War One, or as it is often referred to The Great War but as Judith Kinghorn shows us this war was far from great for those involved.

The novel focuses on the protagonist Clarissa and the huge changes she is forced to undergo during the war. Her life in her home at Deyning will be changed forever as a result. The descriptions of Deyning are vivid, poetic and beautiful to read. I could easily visualise Clarissa's surroundings and understood the importance of place to her.

The love affair that unfolds between Clarissa and Tom is haunting, frustrating and entirely convincing. Towards the end they discover something about their mutual past that made me exclaim out loud. I won't spoil it here but this is a novel that will elict a wide range of emotions from the reader.

I did not want this book to end and can happily recommend it to all readers who enjoy the detailed development of a character drawn during a very interesting and frightening time in England's history.
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VINE VOICEon 30 April 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This debut novel centres around Deyning Park House and the fortunes of its family. It tells the story of 17 year old Clarissa and Tom who is the housekeeper's son. They fall in love one summer just before the outbreak of World War 1. For reasons of the vast differences in their class, there can be no future for them together.

This book is written in the first person, a style which I particularly like. I feel you can always get closer to what makes a character tick that way. The characterisation is good and the prose is elegant. The book covers almost a generation, at a time of immense social and political upheaval, and we see both characters change and 'grow up.' The reader is quickly caught up in Clarissa and Tom's story.

An excellent read, especially for fans of historical fiction and, of course, Downton Abbey.
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on 17 October 2014
It’s the lovely fresh vibrancy of the narrative voice that immediately draws you into this novel. And the deft pulsing characterisation of the young heroine, Clarissa. The author has a real feel and love for the era and there’s a big warm heart beating through this story. Initially Clarissa is living in an almost idyllic world. An elegant country house with servants and all the trappings of the ruling classes of that era. This world masterfully and beautifully evoked. The prose in its fresh understated lyricism reminded me of Rosamond Lehman, Elizabeth Taylor and early Elizabeth Bowen, all writers I greatly admire. Then Clarissa falls in love with Tom, the son of the housekeeper. Tom, of course, is the forbidden fruit. He brings knowledge, knowledge of the heart. When Tom is called away by the war Clarissa is forced to realise the war has now found her. From then on, it’s a gripping story of Clarissa’s struggles to acquire autonomy, to remain faithful to the imperatives of her heart in a sullied and disenchanted world.

“When spring finally comes she never ceases to surprise me with the lightness and warmth of her touch, her early dawns and frenzied revelry. She is a symphony of rapturous colour and vibrant luminosity; she is memory restored, senses reawakened---brought back to life; and I fall in love once more.”
Like spring, Judith Kinghorn restores to us a memory – except it’s a memory we never had, a moving insight into the struggles and prejudices, the innocence and horrors, the obsessions and heartbreak of an era that still has a haunting spell a hundred years later.
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on 8 July 2013
August 1914, storm clouds of war are gathering over Europe but life at Deyning Park is still full of the sound of Britain's elite enjoying themselves with strawberries, croquet and tennis. The flowers are in full bloom filling the air with their beautiful scent and Clarissa meets Tom Cuthbert. Could anything end this blissful summer full of hope and young love?

But the world is at a turning point and the war and its aftermath will change everyone lives. Nothing will ever be as it was during that last, blissful summer of innocence when everyone and everything had its pre-determined place in the world and nothing could

But the world is at a turning point and the war and its aftermath will change everyone lives. Nothing will ever be as it was during that last, blissful summer of innocence when everyone and everything had its pre-determined place in the world and nothing could upset this order.

The arrival of war brings heartbreak, tragedy and change for everyone. Will Tom's and Clarissa's love stand these strange times which make people behave in a way which they would never have done before.

The book follows the lives of Tom and Clarissa for the next decade as their lives twist and turn and long standing secrets are revealed by those close to them.

The Last Summer was a fantastic book which seemed to me to capture the changes that society went through at the start of the 20th Century. Fantastic description by Judith Kinghorn meant that the raw emotions that the characters were going through were transmitted to the reader.

I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who wants and intelligent story about the snobbery of the pre World War One class system, love, loss, tragedy and what happens when we follow our head instead of the heart. A must read!
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on 12 September 2012
'The Last Summer' is a truly wonderful book and a compelling read, not only because of its excellent story with many an unexpected twist but also the characters so finely drawn, and so engaging. There are passages of dark beauty spun seamlessly into a canvas of seasons unfolding - nature in all its unending glory. Indubitably the book is a celebration of the human spirit and so moved was I by it, that I wrote two letters to Judith Kinghorn, which I thought I'd share here...

My dear Judith,
I am halfway though your remarkable book. (Tom has arrived in a boat and presented champagne).
The read has proved an unexpected pleasure. Your writing is quite exquisite. Your book is a celebration of the human spirit. Clarissa's first watercolour of sky blurring into sea is beautiful and reminded me of many of my paintings.
The white moth moving from rose to rose and then below on the rooftop and then onto places unknown... You have drawn such moving images....

My dear Judith,
Yesterday I finished your book, and did so with great reluctance.
I wished I could have made it last longer, but then all good things, I am told, end. The ending was perfect. I so enjoyed the book - it was beautifully crafted and I congratulate you on a truly fine piece of writing.
The reader of the audiobook had just the right voice to engage with the atmosphere of the book. In fact, there were many echoes in your book which were endlessly fascinating.

Thank you ever so much for providing me with such an extended pleasure.
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on 18 September 2012
If, like me, you always welcome the return to autumn TV scheduling, to dramatic series that transport you back in time, then you may also love books that do the same for the reader.

Judith Kinghorn has created a world around Deyning Park with its house and family affected by the outcome of World War One. One daughter, Clarissa, never loses sight of her first (and only) love, Tom Cuthbert ... but will the passage of time, down through years of chance meetings, arranged opportunities, dreamy scenes, passion, despair, other loves ... will all this result in a destiny that fulfils their love or ends it?

This is how The Last Summer has left me - with the ability to précis the storyline (minus spoilers, of course) in my own words. Yet, not so much my own words because the landscape of this highly filmic book is described using 'ordinary' storytelling. Kinghorn's prose is deceptively straightforward as it crafts many accessible characters and settings.

In many ways, Kinghorn's writing skill is not of its day; the beauty of this book is the sum total of the story, the author and your emotional response.

Now I'll read the other reviews - I always tell it how it is for me first. So you can trust this review.
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on 17 September 2012
This book is a totally stunning and evocative story of love, pain and the politics surrounding life at the time.

The sumptuous romance between Clarissa Granville, an eligible and privileged young lady, and Tom Cuthbert, the housekeeper's son, is emotionally exquisite, despite the many barriers that stand between belonging to one another. The devastating loss experienced by all characters, and the aftermath of War, and its social consequences, are incredibly harrowing, although the gorgeous description and passion defined throughout the story made for a hugely gratifying read.
Consistently, The Last Summer is entirely sincere and believable, and the imperfections of the characters force you to fall even deeper in love with them.

Their love story is not alone, accompanied with letter extracts from a further secretive but poignant relationship throughout the main plot, whose lovers are revealed at the end, presenting a fabulously enigmatic twist. I became completely lost and captivated by each character, and the heart-breaking dramas they endured.

A word of warning: tissues, preferably a box, will be required.

Pure polished and elegant escapism in a book. Enchanting.
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