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The Summer of Secrets Paperback – 13 Aug 2015
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"An evocative and atmospheric coming-of-age story" (Carys Bray, author of Richard and Judy Book Club pick A SONG FOR ISSY BRADLEY)
"A wonderfully atmospheric first novel" (Claire Fuller, author of Desmond Elliot winning novel OUR ENDLESS NUMBERED DAYS)
"With beautiful, evocative prose, Sarah Jasmon captures perfectly all the heat and angst in one life-changing summer" (Vanessa Lafaye, author of Richard and Judy Book Club pick SUMMERTIME)
"The vividness of memories shimmers dangerously and brightly throughout: it’s gripping, beautifully written and entirely evocative of time and place" (Julia Crouch, author of CUCKOO)
"Lyrical and sensuous, this wonderful portrait of people, time and place stayed with me long after I had finished" (Elizabeth Forbes, author of NEAREST THING TO CRAZY)
One day she was there . . .
and the next day, the day after the fire, she was gone.
A suspenseful, vividly drawn novel about a summer ending in tragedy, that will appeal to readers of quality book-club fiction like Louise Doughty's Apple Tree Yard and Helen Dunmore's The Lie.
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Plain, obsessive, sixteen-year-old Helen is lonely and grieving after the break-up of her family. She is mesmerised by the beautiful and talented Dover family, especially the confident and charismatic Victoria; her sexy, older brother, Seth, and their beautiful, but unstable, mother. But the Dovers are a family with dangerous secrets and are careless with the affections of others. ‘The Summer of Secrets’ was never going to end well; you can feel the tension mounting and sense the looming tragedy, as one after another, the Dovers and their friends destroy Helen’s innocence, finally driving her to a horrific act of furious, drunken revenge.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book but IMHO opinion it should also be marketed as Young Adult Fiction. Thirteen/fourteen-year-old readers would adore it.
As stated the main character is called Helen. She lives a very sheltered life with her father after her mother leaves the family home. Helen has not got much life experience and isn't allowed a lot of freedom. She has few if any friends so it is easy to understand why she is so mesmerised by the family called Dover, who move in down the street. The Dover family seem to live a hippy lifestyle and the atmosphere in their house is very relaxed and easy going. There are no boundaries, there is a lax attitude to housework and the general rule is that there aren't any rules. There is also a air of mystery about the family and what has happened in their past. In comparison Helen leads a very boring life and is envious of the lifestyle of the Dovers. Helen makes friends with Victoria Dover and the rest of her family as she feels that life with them promises some kind of excitement.
One night during the summer of 1983 something happens and the next day the Dovers disappear.
In 2013 we find Helen trying to make sense of the summer of 1983 and after Helen spots Victoria she goes on a quest to find out what really happened that night and why she has blanked certain events out of her mind.
I did enjoy this book but I did think that the story was a little slow in parts. This could have been deliberate in an attempt to portray a lazy summer from the point of view of a teenager and I have to say that it works, as the book accurately portrays not only a lazy summer but also shows the mischief that children can get up to during the school summer holidays.
I sort of identified with Helen's character a bit in that we both are quite shy but at times I became so frustrated with Helen that I could have slapped her or shaken her by the shoulders. I didn't really take to the Dover family at all as their attitudes were so lax and their awareness of risks etc were non existent.
Overall I enjoyed the book and I look forward to reading further works by Sarah Jasmon. It was hard to believe that this was the author's debut novel as the writer writes in such a confident style and the book is really well written.
It opens with 16 year old Helen facing a long empty summer. School has ended, her exams are over, she has no friends, her mother has left and her father is depressed and abstracted. How will she spend those long summer days?
And then the Dover family arrive at the cottage down by the canal near where Helen lives. This family is so alluring. They are bohemian, beautiful, mysterious and well-travelled. Soon Helen is drawn into the Dover's life, spending every day at their cottage.
It is Victoria Dover who exerts the greatest influence over Helen. Victoria is everything Helen is not. She is mercurial, articulate, imaginative, sometimes cruel and a person who is willing to try out dangerous things. Helen, in contrast, is thoughtful, kind, deep but also a bit passive and something of an outsider. She falls under Victoria's spell. This enriches her life that summer but ultimately leads to a tragedy which will affect Helen for the next 30 years.
The novel is a slow burner and I like slow burners because you are given time to get to know the characters who are very well developed and believable. And Sarah Jasmon has created a marvellous evocation of a summer in the 1980s. You can almost feel those heady, hot, sensuous days when the two girls explored and experimented and felt that life had so many possibilities opening up in front of them.
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In 1983 Helen is 16, she lives with her father and has no friends then she meets the Dover family and becomes friends...Read more