I usually don’t talk about the book covers unless they particularly blow my mind, but I want to open this review by discussing the cover chosen for The Book of Summers. While I believe it is indeed very pretty, I also believe it is the wrong cover for the book. When I started reading it my wife approached me and remarked on how pretty it was, she then asked if I was reading a girly book. Therein lies the problem… it isn’t a girly book at all.
If I had to describe the book (and I do) I would say it is a family drama. The book tells the story of Beth whose parents split up when she is little and her Mother – Marika – moves back to Hungary. The story sees Beth receive a book of photos made my Marika after years of not seeing her. There is a family rift hinted at but not revealed and as Beth reads through the book she relives several of her Summers in Hungary.
It is not “chick-lit” and the cover does nothing to convince otherwise. In a few sentences I will commence telling you why you should read it, but, before I do that I implore you to look past the cover and read it.
Emylia Hall’s debut is a wonderfully mesmerising and beautiful piece of fiction that evokes a sense of nostalgia throughout. Emylia’s writing style is stunning. Her prose is so pretty and sweeping it borders on poetic. However, it’s not just her writing style but the substance and topics that is a treat.
When Hall depicts the bold vistas of Hungary the reader is transported to hideaway pools of water, fields of itchy grass and warm, friendly houses bustling with laughter and family. A novel has nailed the environment when the reader pines to wake up the next morning and be standing in said environment. For me I was hypnotised by the vast lakes that shimmered with sunshine as Beth and her family tucked into Paprika coated crisps.
All of the descriptive scenes lend themselves to the underlying sense of nostalgia. Even if it isn’t your past you recognise that reminiscent feeling. I often found myself smiling at mentions of mundane childhood things that evoke memories such as hot blackcurrant juice given when ill. Hall writes Beth’s childhood with such enthusiasm so that when the twist in the tale arrives it carries more weight and hits harder.
I loved the twist itself, it suited the story perfectly and was surprising. Having said that, I did find Beth’s reaction a little off. Not her initial reaction but the thoughts after time. It’s hard to explain my thoughts as I don’t want to spoil anything. Suffice to say the twist will keep book groups going for hours. It’s a moment that explains so much including the slightly estranged relationship between her and her father and why her passion for Hungary has deserted her.
Emylia’s characters are also marvellous. Marika is spontaneous, warm and loving. Tamas (Beth’s Summer love) is a personification of fictionalised Summer love and Zoltan is my personal favourite. Zoltan is the partner of Marika and is shown as an eccentric painter who everyone would want in their family. He’s loving, creative and of course artistic. Whenever he spoke of art his passion (and possibly Emylia’s) shone through. So much so that I had to break out my old art supplies and start creating.
My only negative, aside from the cover art, was the length. At times it seemed a little too long. I’m sure much of Beth’s childhood was needed for the twist to work, but at times it felt like padding – not bad padding, but padding none the less.
The Book of Summers is a fantastic debut and Emylia Hall is a superb author with plenty of talent flowing through her. Novels that evoke a feeling in the audience are powerful things, but they are also hard to come by, especially from debut authors. I feel like I say it all the time, but I can’t wait to read more from this author.
Published by Headline. This book was kindly sent by the publisher.