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The Book of Summers - review

(16 ratings)
The Book of Summers by Emylia Hall
What's The Book of Summers about?


When Beth's father decides to make a sudden visit to her London flat, all the way from Devon, she suspects something's up, but nothing can prepare her for the long-buried memories conjured up by the package he brings with him.

The Book of Summers is a coming-of-age story about a daughter and the mother that left her to return to Hungary, when she was just 9. Through summer stays with her mum, Beth and Marika's relationship blooms until one day, a secret brings into question everything Beth's ever known to be real.

goodtoknow says: The Book of Summers was a great, easy, summer read. The description of Beth's time in Hungary and days spent with her mum, Marika, were filled with colour and life and made us want to pack our bags and jump on the first flight out there! We became more and more drawn into the relationship between daughter and mother and swept along in their free-spirited summers. It took us a couple of chapters to get into, but once we were there, we didn't want to leave.

Rating: 8/10

Publisher: Headline

Publish Date: Out now

You'll like this if you liked: When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

Buy it now on Amazon

More book reviews in the goodtoknow Book Club. Have you read The Book of Summers? What did you think? Join in with the goodtoknow Book Club by leaving your review in the comments box below.

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A Reader

The Book of Summers by Emylia Hall follows the story of a 30 year old woman named Beth Lowe who receives a package, in it is a letter informing Beth that her estranged mother has passed away, and a scrapbook called 'The Book of Summers'. In this book are memories Beth has kept hidden for 14 years and, bit by bit, Beth unravels these as she stares back into her past, first cautiously, tentatively, and then in the end jumping into them feet first. Travelling across countries and time we follow her story and go on the adventure with her that, in a way, brings her to life more and more. Emylia Hall has mixed both real life and fiction in her book, having travelled to Hungary for the first time after the Berlin Wall came down, and spending summers there, looking back on photos of times spent in that breath-taking country, you can see why she wanted to write a book on a woman's experiences there. The places come to life: whether you are in London, Devon, Hungary, Villa Serena, or Lake Balaton. They have their own personality, and you can feel them, want to see them, be a part of that beauty, adventure, and mystery they have to offer. This book is written in the first person. Beth has to face her past, for better, for worse, her life depends on it in a way. The setting is so vital to this book, the way the places are described are, in some way, a description of Beth's personalities, the conflict she has within, and also the other characters in the book: the way her mother's heart matches the passion, and wildness of the Hungarian countryside, and how her father's personality is matched with Devon, and his well-kept, and organised allotment. I have to say that this book surprised me. I didn't think the book would affect me so much. Emylia Hall made it possible to feel very close to every character she writes about, no matter what they've done, or what they will do, you feel for them, you understand why, that no one is perfect, and that is a great feat in itself. This book felt real to me, not a false promise, or full of so much sugar it makes you sick, and it didn't leave a bitter taste in my mouth either. I felt for each character and felt swept along with the book. I actually felt like I was going through all the feelings and actions the characters were going through, and I began to care a lot for them. This doesn't usually happen to me and it caught me by surprise. I wanted to keep spending time in those places, with those people that Emylia Hall wrote about. This is a book about re-awakenings, about never being too late, and to never ignore your heart. I fell in love with this book, the people, and the places, and I will be reading this again!

Helena de Oliveira

The Book of Summers is the story of a girl on her thirties revisiting her childhood and the stories enclosed on it. It all starts when her father pays her a sudden visit to leave her a parcel from Hungary. Even though this is a beautiful story, full of colour and emotion, a nice picture of a foreign country, it wasn't a easy read for me, there was the promise of a secret revelation that kept me going otherwise I would probably have given up on it, not sure if it was for the excessive descriptions or what but I very often felt like dragging myself, ending up skipping some bits here and there. So, overall is a nice story but not a favourite for me as I couldn't feel the pages flow by, getting stucked on the heavy descriptions.

Rach A James

The Book of Summers is a truly beautiful book which has left me excited at the thought of more from Emylia Hall. The descriptions and thought which has gone into this book make it captivating and leaves you thinking through your own summer photos and wondering about the possibilities of making up your own scrapbooks of summers past! As the book comes towards its conclusion you can't help but read faster and faster - there's not much book left, you already know there's a problem which has blasted lives apart but you just can't imagine what it could be. When it arrives it's completely unexpected and imagining the devastation and heartbreak of all the characters involved left me reading the last couple of chapters through tears. A truly beautiful book which you really should read.

KittyKittyPorFavor

Beautiful, enchanting, magical. Three words that describe this book perfectly! I've never been to Hungary but I now have a gorgeous image of the place in my mind. Amazing for a first novel, it is written like a poem. The author brilliantly describes the thoughts of a young teenager and the memories of Hungary are described in such detail that it is hard to not feel the atmosphere of the place. All this beauty is followed by such a sad, unexpected ending and I loved the open ending of Beth and Tamas's relationship although I would have liked to know what became of Balint.

Charlotte Gunn

Congratulations Jeanette, Mel, Helena, KittyKitty, Helen, Lynne, Darlene, and Marianne. Please email goodtoknow@ipcmedia.com with the title BOOK OF SUMMERS COMP and include your name and address and we'll arrange for your book to be posted to you.

Marianne Hill

My favourite books about other countries and cultures are anything by Bill Bryson. From memoirs of living in the USA, to his travels in Europe, he always writes with humour and honesty. I especially love his description of getting off the train in Liverpool, when they were having "a festival of litter"! I defy anyone to pick up any Bill Bryson book and not love it!

Susan Gilley

I recommend 'A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush' by Eric Newby. I read this 30 odd years ago whilst dating an Iranian. It gave a real insight into life in that part of the world at that time. Much has changed now of course and I did not marry the Iranian boy!!!

Stephanie d'Arcy

The Book of Summers is a story about Beth Lowe. She receives a book containing photographs and mementos of her teenage summers in Hungary, which brings back many memories that had long been forgotten. The book explores these seven summers and the event which halted her annual visits to eastern Europe. The book paints a beautiful picture of Hungary, although towards the beginning of the book I did feel maybe some parts were too descriptive and in some parts boring. I did enjoy the depths of the characters though, which were explored well. I think my main problem with this story was that the earlier summers of her childhood were more detailed than the latter ones. But the later summers of teenage hormones, romance and resentment seemed to be over more quickly and I thought the extra details here would have been more interesting. I also thought the story ended quite abruptly, leaving the reading with questions; what happened next?! Overall, it was a nice book and an easy read, but really nothing much happened. I think an extra hundred pages would have benefited the story more

Darlene Taylor

I saw a post on an old school friend's f/b page recommending A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini not long after hearing Richard & Judy mention it in one of their book club chats on TV so it was curiosity that made me borrow it from the library. What a book! I hated having to put it down, i wanted to be able to read the whole thing in one go once I'd started. It was a horrific but brilliant insight into the many, many injustices with which Afghanistan women are burdened within their country. Maximum respect to the author for his deliverance. I was left hungry for more knowledge of both the issues faced & also the cause & impact of the war. I followed it with The Kite Runner by the same author & still wanted more. It really opened me up to wanting to engage with another country's culture. I then went on to read Jihad by Tom Carew.

Lynne OConnor

Many to choose from but I guess the one that stayed with me longest after reading it was Steinbeck's classic "The Grapes of Wrath". Such an incredibly emotional trip through America in search of a better life during the depression, you really feel the heartbreak of their numerous setbacks. It's not an easy read and definitely not a feel good book but I'd highly recommend it.

Helen Waller

I loved A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, it gives a superb account of the life of women in Afganistan and the appressions they have faced. It deals with issues of class, religion, sexual roles, child rearing, work, education, and community and really made me think about this culture and its many challenges.

KittyKittyPorFavor

Cuban Heels by Emily Barr. I first read this years and years ago and I still love it!

Helena de Oliveira

I'm also going with Victoria Hislop, The Return is the book about another country (and here I'm counting other than UK or Portugal, for me) that I read more recently. It took me to a not that far past so brilliantly presented, showing the painfull and unfair Cold War that devasted the lifes of so many families. It caught me for her ability to surprise the reader, what in the first part sounds like a light summer reading, then turns to be an emotional, intense deep dive into the drama that was going on in Spain during the Cold War, and its impact on generations.

Mel Daniels

The Island by Victoria Hislop would probably have to be my favourite as not only was it a fantastic story which moved me to tears, but the descriptions of Greece and Crete in particular were wonderful. I learned so much about the landscape, history and culture of this beautiful country and would now really love to visit there some day.

Jeanette Purvis

Before I Go to Sleep - S J Watson Reccommend this book to anyone that likes a bit of a twist to a story. I could not put this book down as it was so intriguing, fascinating and quite in-depth storyline, all about a women who has lost her memory and cannot remember past for quite a number of years, marriage, baby, etc etc....... Won't say any more don't want to spoil such a good read....

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