Beth Lowe left home to start art school in London twelve years ago. She now works in an Art Gallery and lives a quiet but contented life. She is surprised to get a phone call from her Father telling her he is coming to visit, he has never been before. She gets the tidies the flat and makes plans for the day, pleased that he is making the attempt to see her. She is hoping to show him where she works and other things from her life, but instead he brings a parcel that rocks her world. The parcel is from Hungary where she used to spend her summers with her estranged mother and she is so angry that her father leaves for home straight away.
Beth debates what she should do with the parcel but finally decides that she has to open it. Inside she finds a letter from Zoltan, her mothers partner, telling her that her mother has passed away. She also finds a scrap book she has never seen before, which is entitled “The Book Of Summers”. On opening it she finds that Marika, her estranged mother has carefully recorded the summers they spent together in Hungary. The book starts when Beth is ten, the summer after her mother and father separated. There are photos captured without her knowledge and other mementos of those days inside. Beth finds herself whisked back in time, to those summers recalling the good and bad memories until the book ends at that last summer, when she is sixteen and it all ended.
On reading this book I found myself transported with Beth through the pages back to those summers in Hungary. The writing is so vivid, we can feel the hot exotic air on our shoulders, taste the peppery food with the sour cream and the tang of the homemade lemonade. The characters are full of life and colour, Marika, her exotic Hungarian mother contrasts vividly with Beth’s quiet and reserved father who potters around the garden in their Devon home. Zoltan, her mother’s partner in his paint splashed studio with his colourful paintings and sensible ways adds a sense of the exotic. Then there is the neighbour, Tomas, a boy around Beth’s age who she finds herself falling in love with.
The summers contrast vividly with normal life in Devon, cool and damp with a Father who barely acknowledges her and dreary routine. Each summer varies from the last, there are changes between each visit as Beth grows up and she realises that nothing will be quite as she expects. All the summers are magical until the last, when a family secret is revealed resulting in an end to the summers in Hungary.
This is a lovely book, perfect for reading in the garden on a summer day. I found myself swept up in Beth’s life living the memories alongside her and wanting to go and visit Hungary for myself. It is a lovely debut novel and I really enjoyed it. If you are looking for a great summer read then pick this book up, you will not be disappointed.
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