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Pretty but not captivating
on 19 June 2014
The Last Summer is a prettily written romance set during WWI, following Clarissa, a young lady who’s fallen for a servant’s son, who is obviously of a status far below her family’s – and in particular her mother’s – expectations.
This novel felt like it never quite fulfilled its potential. The language is beautiful, at times, but at others clichéd and repetitive (we are told particularly often about how the war brought the end of an era to the world and to Clarissa). The anonymous letters which are interspersed with the main narrative are not that compelling a mystery; the clues they contain are not that clever. There’s historical detail, but not so much as to give the impression that a lot of painstaking research has been done.
It is difficult to feel much sympathy towards Clarissa regarding her love affair, though other troubles which she has to deal with within her family life are actually more emotionally jarring than the romance. But for Clarissa, her romantic love is her priority, and it did feel like the novel was advocating selfish passion, physical attraction and sexual excitement above all other forms of relationships and family ties. (Sex itself in the novel is implied, but never described in any graphic manner, which works well with the book’s style.)
However, the main love affair is intriguing enough to make you keep reading to find out how it ends.