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on 25 June 2015
I'm only on page 80 but I'm finding this quite difficult to read as it's written so emotively that it keeps making me cry and I have to keep stopping. Which is a bit embarrassing on a packed commuter train. I'll complete my review if I ever manage to finish the book... BOO HOO :'-(

UPDATE: I have finished it! I really enjoyed it. Every word was bursting with emotion and the language was rich and colourful, evoking a very real sense of baking hot Hungarian summers drenched in sunshine. It is a book full of adjectives, metaphors and similes.
I was very much not expecting the twist - obviously something went wrong in the last summer in Hungary and I was trying to guess what the whole way through the book, but when it came I was so surprised I had to read the revelatory sentence again!

But it was just too damned sad. I think I'd have done things differently if I'd been Beth. Or would I? Who knows. It's a prefect example of 'beautiful sadness' as the writing style and manner in which the author narrates the story is beautiful, but the story is a heartbreakingly sad one. Definitely recommended.
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I seem to have had a few Proustian moments with this novel as different smells and sounds brought me back to my youth just as the protagonist explores her past via her own book, The Book of Summers. Admittedly my own past was somewhat less eventful and less traumatic than that of Beth Lowe but I really enjoyed the atmosphere of nostalgia, the memories of summers past and, I think, despite the sadness, a certain optimism about the future all of which added up to an enjoyable read for me.

The "summers" of the title are the seven vacations which Beth spent with her mother, Marika, in Hungary. In the present-day narrative, thirty year old Beth is leading a very quiet, almost reclusive life, working in an art gallery in London, but the tranquillity is fractured when her father makes an impromptu visit bringing with him a parcel which, once opened, lets loose all the memories Beth has tried so hard to suppress. The Book of Summers is the scrapbook memoir which Marika had compiled over the seven summers Beth enjoyed with her in Hungary - memories of hot dry summers, bathing in ponds, first love, wandering in the wilds - all of which form a sharp contrast with home, a rather dreary Devon with a quite depressed Dad who can't really compete with the exotic wild whirlwind created by Marika.

Of course, such idyllic days were bound to be disrupted and you really feel for the young Beth/Erzi. Her only hope of closure as an adult is to relive those days via the Book of Summers.

"Once, when she was trying to explain why she'd returned to Hungary, Marika said, Sometimes if you don't go backward, you can't move forward."

This is an impressive, evocative debut which will transport the reader to another time, another place. I'm looking forward to reading more from this talented young writer.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This novel tells the story of Beth, the child of an English father and Hungarian mother. Her parents separate when Beth is only 9. Her mother, Marika, moves to Hungary and Beth stays with her father in Devon. Beth stays in contact with her mother through letters and phone calls and every summer, as a child, Beth returned to Hungary to spend a holiday with her mother and her new partner, Zoltan. Beth loves these holidays and spends most of the year longing for them to come round. As a child, she even considers that when she is old enough she will move permanently to Hungary.

The novel starts when Beth is 30 and living in London. She receives a letter from Zoltan, informing her that her mother has died. Enclosed with the letter is a photo album/scrapbook entitled "The Book of Summers". This had been hand-made by Marika and it describes very evocatively and very lovingly, the 7 summers which Beth spent in Hungary, from the age of 10 to 16. It is clear that Beth is now estranged from her mother and has had no contact with her since she was last in Hungary at the age of 16. Why she is estranged we do not know but all is revealed as Beth reads the book and remembers and re-lives her 7 summers in Hungary.

This novel is very atmospheric, very evocative. We see the contrast between cool, damp, green Devon and hot sun-bleached Hungary. We also see the contrast between Beth's reserved, conventional father and her colourful, vivacious, flamboyant mother. There is a stark contrast between Beth's day to day life in Devon and her summers in Hungary. Her father is loving, but undemonstrative and communications between them are virtually non-existent. Beth feels that she is only truly alive when she is in Hungary.

This is also a novel about family secrets and how devastating the consequences can be, when the secret eventually comes to light. The longer the secret is kept, the more tragic those consequences will be.

I enjoyed this book very much. It is well-written and the characters are all vividly portrayed. As I have already said, it is very evocative and we are given a very rich portrayal of life in Hungary. The mystery of why Beth is estranged from her mother keeps us reading to the end. This is Emylia Hall's first novel and I shall certainly be looking out for further novels written by her. Altogether a very enjoyable read, which I am happy to recommend.
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on 7 December 2015
I loved this book. It was slow, but beautifully written. I felt that I was actually visiting Hungary. This is the second book by Emylia Hall that I have read. I think she is a very talented writer and look forward to reading more of her books. I am not going to summarise the plot as that will spoil the book.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 May 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have to say that I struggled through the first forty or so pages - the writing style and plot seemed to me to be unnecessarily over-blown. I stuck with it though. I quite liked the device of revealing the past through the annual holidays spent in Hungary. There are some very good passages of descriptive writing but for me there was simply too much of this, to the point where the quality of the writing became submerged. I felt also that I was being spoon-fed and there was little left to the imagination and intelligence of the reader - there wasn't enough room. The writing certainly evokes an image of a Hungarian summer but this is then repeated endlessly and as a result, for me at least, lost its impact. Perhaps some judicious editing would have improved matters. You know right from the beginning that something happens in the seventh summer and I had been picturing what the great reveal would be, including several potential scenarios. Unfortunately it took so long to get there that I was just relieved.

I have to confess, too, that I didn't really warm to most of the characters, in particular the two female protagonists, Erzsi and Marika, although I found the characters of Erzsi's father and the artist Zoltan to be more compelling, perhaps because they are less fully described. I didn't believe in the character Tamas, ostensibly Erszi's boyfriend - there was no substance to him.

Its not a bad book by any means, and I wouldn't be averse to reading further novels by the same author, it's just that this one didn't grab me.
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VINE VOICEon 14 March 2012
I am so glad that I am not the only person to find 'The Book of Summer's' overly descriptive. Having heard so many good things about it I began to wonder if I had missed something. Hall certainly shows talent but I feel that it could have benefited from some judicial editing in places. There are some beautifully written passages but for me it just took too long to get anywhere. I also didn't warm to the characters, in fact the only one I felt any sympathy for was Erzi's (Elizabeth's) father, I know teenagers can be a bit of a pain but Erzi just comes across as being completely selfish. Narrated through her eyes we only see a romanticised view of Hungary, everything is beautiful the Danube is blue (when in reality it is anything but). The premise is good but I found that the 7 summer's merged together without much happening, then you have the 'boring' single father who looks after his daughter all year round who is in competition with the free spirited and beautiful Marika living a Bohemian lifestyle. From the start the reader knows that after 7 perfect summer's 'something happens' unfortunately the 'something' did not come as a big surprise, it is the kind of 'something' that crops up in novels all the time and I did wonder how a secret of this nature could be so well hidden for so long. An OK summer read but not a book I will remember.
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Beth received a parcel from Hungary. It brings with it news of her estranged mothers death and a scrapbook, entitled The Book of Summers full of memories of her childhood summers spent with her mother in Hungary all those years ago. As she turns the pages, she reminisces and tells the story of how she went from Erzsébet to Beth.

From line to line, it is beautifully written, creating the perfect picture of summers in Hungary. I did however find it slow to get into. The combination of descriptive prose and first person narrative doesn't really give the reader a chance to get to know the character of Beth all that easily. I also find that first person is more of a train of thought to me, and Beth's state of mind didn't gel with the person who would think in a poetic way. She is holding a grudge, comes across as mean to her father and by the end of the book, I felt that she never really grew up.

For the most part, the story concentrates on Beth's childhood which was easy to become absorbed in. There's not a lot going on but it is an ideal book to while away some summer hours reading outdoors.

It is a rather romantic view of Hungary, told through the memories of childhood summers. There are hints at its troubled past, Marika returns after the Berlin Wall has come down, but otherwise it is looked at through rose-tinted glasses. It doesn't really offer any insights into the country if that is what you're looking for.
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on 25 January 2015
This book reminded me of my summer holidays in France as a child even though they didn't bear a great deal of resemblance to those of the main protagonist Elizabeth. I think the author successfully captured the essence of how wonderful the experience of visiting somewhere abroad can be for a child, regardless of the place or the type of accommodation on offer, and also the kind of things that children remember. This may be because she was drawing on her own experiences of visiting Hungary as a child, and indeed a lot of it felt like personal recollections, but I think she did it very well.

I also think she captured what it must be like to experience your parents splitting up as a child and also highlighted that every relationship is different and it's easy to pass judgement on people when you don't know all the details. I really liked the way she continued the story from pre- to post-adolescence, as it was an interesting view on how people change over this period. 

Having recently visited Hungary (Budapest) for the first time I found the descriptions of the Hungarian countryside, history and people fascinating and definitely made me want to go back. 

Overall I think this was a great read and not really what I was expecting. I was sent this book a while ago to review and I'm sad I didn't read it sooner. I think it was let down by it's somewhat insipid cover that I must admit put me off reading the book for a long while.
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on 28 October 2012
When Beth Lowe receives a parcel containing a scrapbook entitled The Book of Summers, the door to her childhood past is wrenched open. It is stuffed with photographs and mementos complied by her mother to record the seven glorious childhood summers Beth spent in rural Hungary. It was a time when she trod the tightrope between separated parents and two very different countries, her bewitching but imperfect Hungarian mother and her gentle, reticent English father. It was also a time that came to the most brutal of ends the year Beth turned sixteen. Since then, Beth hasn't allowed herself to think about those years of her childhood. But the arrival of The Book of Summers brings the past tumbling back into the present; as vivid, painful and vital as ever.

I thought Emylia Hall's debut novel was well written and would be enjoyed by many readers. A very vivid picture of each scene is painted but at times I did feel that the writing was too descriptive and that I could not fit another chunk into my head. The story did have a melancholy feel throughout and left me feeling rather sad which has influenced my rating
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a stunningly deceptive but gentle novel about Beth's journey through an album revisiting her turbulent childhood.
Beth is an independant young woman who is estranged from her mother and receives little or no support from her emotionally
distant father.

In her twenties she hears her mother has passed away and receives the Book of Summers through her mothers lover- Zoltan.
The book of Summers is an album which contains photographs of Beth's yearly one week holidays with her mother and Zoltan
after her hungarian mother abandoned her when Beth was twelve.

The Book of Summers unlocks in Beth her little girl heart long ago put on ice. She charts the love that she once felt
for Marika. Beth remebers how she longed to swop her humdrum existance in England for a more exciting one in Hungary.

Things take a dramatic turn with the discovery of a lie so enormous it seems unlokely Beth will recover from. This is a
fabulous book by Emylia Hall - please read it and enjoy its fabulous.
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