The Book of Summers – Emylia Hall

An afternoon in the park, everyone is going about their lives. People are sat chatting, catching the sunshine, groups of boys playing football.  But one lady sat in that park is absorbed in the past, not in the present.

That lady is Beth Lowe.

A parcel had arrived via her father in person to London her now home. Something he never does. The parcel was important.

It told of seven summers that Beth experienced in Hungary. It told us through Beth’s memories of the summers what Beth experienced. The angst of the age between nine and sixteen.

The angst of warring parents who were not actually fighting.

The angst of first love.

The angst of the truth – “…anyone could learn the truth. It was what you did with it that mattered.”

This debut novel is subtly written that you have to absorb every moment that is beautifully described. The richness of Hungary, the landscape, the colours, the smells all brough to life on the page. The author’s own experiences of the country come through strong and clear,making it richer and more evocative. You can see Beth, running through the hills, tasting the food, eating what she wants when she wants, trying new ideas, meeting new people in fact everything.

All in complete contrast to Beth’s life in Devon. Regimented, organised. Bland and boring. Ordinary.

The book brings a conclusion. But can Beth reach her own conclusion to enable her to move on with her life. Can she reconcile herself with ordinary days and those not so ordinary?

“Little did we know how happy we were then. If only we could learn to celebrate the ordinary days; the ones that begin unremarkably, and continue in un-noteworthy fashion.”

This book cleverly weaves the adult perspective as well as the child, interestingly enough both perspectives from the same person. Does time change memories? Or does knowledge as an adult make us reflect differently. It is all done so gently and feels like you have peaked inside someone else memory and had the huge privilege of being allowed in; to see life so differently.

A book for the summer in many ways. It evokes memories of childhood summers gone. It will be a book which lasts in your memory having finished it into the dark winter nights that follow summer.

Thank you to Amazon Vine for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. 

I first spotted this book on another blog and coveted it for a while, but did not select it to read from Vine. Then I did, then I spotted that it was one of the Richard and Judy Summer Read choices and I knew I was going to be on to a winner. I was. In fact this book was voted the favourite. 

This is Emylia Hall’s first novel. I will be interested to see what her second novel (due out in 2013) has between the pages.