Title: The Book of Summers by Emylia Hall
Genre: Contemporary, Literary, Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B
Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley
For nine-year-old Beth Lowe, it should have been a magical summer—sun-kissed days lounging in rickety deck chairs, nights gathered around the fire. But what begins as an innocent vacation to Hungary ends with the devastating separation of her parents. Beth and her father return home alone, leaving her mother, Marika, behind.
Over the next seven summers, Beth walks a tightrope between worlds, fleeing her quiet home and distant father to bask in the intoxicating Hungarian countryside with Marika. It is during these enthralling summers that Beth comes to life and learns to love. But at sixteen, she uncovers a life-shattering secret, bringing her sacred summers with Marika abruptly to an end.
Now, years later, Beth receives a package containing a scrapbook, a haunting record of a time long forgotten. Suddenly, she is swept back to the world she left behind, forced to confront the betrayal that destroyed her—and to search her heart for forgiveness.
Emylia Hall’s debut novel The Book of Summers is a moving and vibrant story about Beth Lowe’s magical summers in Hungary. Following her parents’ separation, Beth lives full time with her father, David, in Devon, but lives for her summers with her mother, Marika, in Hungary.
The Book of Summers is a story full of contrasts. Beth’s parents are complete opposites. Marika is a free spirit whose enjoyment of life bursts off the pages. She is fun-loving and Beth’s time in Hungary reflects Marika’s Bohemian and artist lifestyle. Beth’s lazy summer days are full of adventure where she eagerly explores the Hungarian countryside. Beth readily identifies with Marika and embraces her Hungarian heritage.
In sharp contrast, Beth’s life in Devon with David is quiet and subdued. David is a schoolteacher who is quite introverted and rather melancholy. While Beth occasionally challenges Marika’s authority, she easily acquiesces to her father’s wishes. As she enters her teen years, her father withdraws farther and farther from her, leaving Beth feeling lost and lonely in their too silent household.
The last summer that Beth spends with Marika is traumatic and forever changes Beth’s life and her relationships with both David and Marika. The events that transpire force Beth to question her very identity. Her sense of betrayal causes her to turn her back on the people who matter most to her.
The Book of Summers is a richly detailed novel that transports the reader back and forth in time and between England and Hungary. Emylia Hall’s descriptive writing style brings the characters and various settings vividly to life. The storyline is fresh and quite original. The reason for Beth’s estrangement from Marika was unexpected and rather shocking. The ending is bittersweet yet hopeful and the epilogue is absolutely perfect.
A novel with depth and emotion that I highly recommend.