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Summertime Paperback – 7 May 2015
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A storming debut novel [that] captures the racial and social tensions in southern America after the First World War. Part social history and part love story, this features the hurricane as a forceful, malevolent character in its own right, whipping through the pages. (THE BOOKSELLER)
'Powerful, beautifully written and simply unputdownable. If you can read this book and not be moved, you have a heart of stone.' (Cathy Kelly)
'I absolutely loved SUMMERTIME; it's rare to read something with such emotional intensity and such exciting pace. It is every bit as good as THE HELP, in my opinion.' (Elizabeth Noble)
1935. An Independence day BBQ simmers with racial tension and resentments. By morning, a terrible crime has been committed. Off the Florida coast, a hurricane is heading their way. So tense, I raced through it. (Fanny Blake WOMAN & HOME)
part love-story, part eye-opening insight into a tumultuous time in American history - the years after the First World War, when veterans tried to rebuild their lives and racial tensions ran high (GOOD HOUSEKEEPING)
A small community is rocked by an attack on a white woman and suspicion falls on war veteran Henry in a story set against the backdrop of a catastrophic hurricane. Vanessa Lafaye's Summertime is being compared to The Help and To Kill A Mockingbird. (Charlotte Heathcote SUNDAY EXPRESS)
Lafaye has created a taut and powerful novel that I found deeply moving. A riveting piece of social history, it's also a love story and a devastating account of what it's like to experience such a disaster (DAILY MAIL)
Combining a moving love story with a fascinating slice of US history, this powerful novel is hard to put down (HELLO!)
In one night nature changes this small town more than ever before ... If you love The Help, you'll love this (CLOSER)
This is Vanessa Lafaye's debut novel, and what a writer she is! She has a talent with words that enables her prose to glide across the page, there are no superfluous words, and each paragraph eases the story along. She is a natural creator of atmosphere and suspense, and with a deft hand she creates credible, yet humanly flawed characters. She also creates a very palpable setting, the heat, the oppressive temperatures and the gurgling, sulphurous swampland all assault the reader's senses (TRIP FICTION)
From the Inside Flap
In the small town of Heron Key, where the relationships are as tangled as the mangrove roots in the swamp, everyone is preparing for the 4th of July barbecue, unaware that their world is about to change for ever. Missy, maid to the Kincaid family, feels she has wasted her life pining for Henry, who went to fight on the battlefields of France. Now he has returned with a group of other desperate, destitute veterans, unsure of his future, ashamed of his past.
When a white woman is found beaten nearly to death, suspicion falls on Henry. As the tensions rise, the barometer starts to plummet. But nothing can prepare them for what is coming. For far out over the Atlantic, the greatest storm ever to strike North America is heading their way...
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Summertime is a truly brilliant debut novel. Likenesses have been drawn to Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, and rightly so. Lafaye’s latest novel, At First Light, is now riding high on my reading list.
Set in the Florida Keys in the mid 1930's, the book tells the story of a community trying to deal with a period of huge racial unrest, where there was still a huge divide between blacks and whites. The reader is also introduced to the black WW1 veterans - left with nothing after returning from France, never given their promised bonus, and no support to help them come to terms with what they experienced.
They arrive into the precariously balanced community of Heron Key, to work on a government funded bridge building project, bitter, psychologically scarred and full of hate. After being treated as equals in war they are once again demoted to second class citizens by people of their own country
The tension is palpable throughout this book. And that is before a record shattering Hurricane is thrown into the mix.
The book follows the stories of a few characters - from Henry, one of the returning WW1 veterans, to Dwayne, the local deputy, to Hilda a white middle class young Mum struggling to come to terms with her loveless marriage. Being exposed to the varying view points and to dig deeper into their lives was interesting and certainly allowed the reader to understand the wider picture. For me, I may have preferred the book to centre on one, maybe two characters to really get drawn into the tension and pure terror of both the racial instability and the devastation of the hurricane. That is the only reason I have knocked off one star. A very personal reason and not a reflection on the quality of this book
The chapters which covered the hurricane and the aftermath were incredible and I literally could not put this book down. Made even more horrific when you realise that much of the story is based on fact. A strong 4 stars.
Summertime is set in the US during a time of racial segregation and tension, and segregation is central to the story. This has led some reviewers to say it's "as good as The Help", another novel in which racial segregation underlies much of the story (though set a bit later). But in my opinion it's even better written than The Help and also has a much stronger narrative. Reading Summertime reminded me in many ways of how I felt when I first read the wonderful Birdsong, and not just in terms of its absolutely beautiful writing. I found Summertime almost painfully moving; I quickly found I'd become completely involved with all the characters and their fates; and I also learned more about a part of history about which I'd previously known shamefully little.
I *loved* this book and can't wait to read the author's next novel once it's published.