Book Club: Summer Secrets

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Author: Jane Green
ISBN: 9781447258667

Jane Green is the bestselling author of seventeen novels, the latest of which is Summer Secrets. The only one of Green’s back catalogue I have read is The Patchwork Marriage back in 2012.

Summer Secrets is a tale of family, love, belonging, addiction and secrets. It is gritty and sometimes painful but it is a compelling read with a couple of interesting twists, and a couple of quite predictable turns.

I loved this book. I fell in love with Cat from the beginning. She was completely messed up but she was also highly relatable. I am sure there are going to be many women out there who relate to her, at least on some level. She drank and partied hard and refused to admit the problem, right from the beginning you could see there were times she recognised it but she never admitted it. Falling into a habit of drinking from such a young age can be quite detrimental and set you up for some long hard years, as Cat discovered for herself.

The timeline is a little bit jumpy, we first meet Cat in 2014 as she cleans out her cupboards to keep busy on an evening at home alone while her daughter is with her ex-husband. Chapter two sees us jump back to 1998 when Cat was a single lady in her late twenties living it up and doing her own thing. We then spend the book in these two timelines, with one jump even further back in time.

A while after the death of her father, at a regular Saturday morning get together, her mother reveals a long held secret that is going to rock Cat to her core and send us on a trip further into the past. I liked going back in time and seeing a different side of Cat’s mum but I think this element of the story could have done with some more exploration. We got a little bit of info and then jumped back to 1998. I would have loved to spend a little more time in 1969 and follow the summer with Audrey rather than be left in the dark.

This isn’t the only bit that is skimmed over that I would have loved to know more about, there is another period that I feel the same about but I think that says more about my natural curiosity than any importance to the story.

summer secrets

Green explores alcoholism in depth, the denial and then the journey to recovery. The link to genetics and the commitment required to recovery. It’s not something you can just get up one morning and decide. It is an insidious disease that creeps into every aspect of every day life and skews perspective. I particularly liked the emphasis Cat places on the why she was getting sober, she has come to that place where she realises when she was doing it for someone else and that it was destined to fail, that until she was doing this for herself she would never feel the hope of success.

Summer Secrets is told by Cat in her own voice, except for the chapters set in ’69 which are told in the third person. We see her life through her eyes, her acceptance of the life she lived; the pain, the humiliation and the heartsickness at the path of destruction she left in her wake. Green has also managed to entwine the effects on those who love an alcoholic from the children and partners to friends and families.

I think the other thing I did relate to is the knowing as a parent what you got up to as a young teen and having to watch your children get closer and closer to that age, to be determined to protect them from the mistakes you made and hoping that they will be different while still seeing them as so much younger than you felt at the same age. I know this is something that scares the pants off me right now.

Cat has finally learned to embrace a living recovery, to actively seek out her sobriety, and immerse herself in the twelve steps of AA. She has come to the crucial point where she has to make amends with the last two people on her list, the two she’s been putting off because of the magnitude, and she has to do it before she can move on.

Cue another summer holiday to Nantucket with the express purpose of making amends, now understanding that it’s not about gaining forgiveness but letting go. Nantucket has been crucial in many of the turning points of her life and the 2014 trip is no different.

Green has captured the ease at which a vulnerable teen can find themselves in trouble and all of the factors that play a part in this. It’s about working your way to a clearer insight to your life and it really is a fantastic read. In the two books I have read Green certainly doesn’t shy away from the tough topics and this book resonated within me.

I have really enjoyed my time with Summer Secrets and I look forward to hearing what our book club readers have to say about it.

Summer Secrets is available now through Pan McMillan and where all good books are sold.

Jane Green can be found on Facebook, Twitter and her Website.

17 thoughts on “Book Club: Summer Secrets

  1. I loved this book from the very first chapter, I wanted to know more, it was a page turner from start to end.
    I loved the Character Cat, a terrible childhood knowing that you were different, that you didn`t fit in, that there was something missing in your life. Then to have a wonderful relationship with her Father when as a child, then to be a teenager and be totally rejected.
    It would have set any child on the road to doubt and the feeling of being unloved.
    You can fully understand why she found a friend in the bottle of Vodka, unfortunately this was to be a pattern of her life for a very long time.
    I loved the whole story, from her Mothers secret to Cat meeting her family and the feeling she had of belonging. But disgraced herself through the blur of Alcohol.
    I felt the novel a bit jumpy at times, I would have liked to have known more on Audry`s life after coming back from her holiday, how she carried on her life knowing her child wasn`t her Husbands. I think later on one can see where the depression came in. She would have been racked with guilt.
    It gave you a insight into how Alcoholism can affect every member of the family, how it destroys the Family unit along with friends and colleague`s.
    It made me think of people I knew who were heavily into alcohol , who partied hard and relied on it .
    I found the twelve steps that a Alcoholic takes each day most fascinating, how only Cat could take those steps once she admitted that she was a Alcoholic.
    I liked the fact that her Husband Jason still loved his wife but didn`t love her drinking. He could separate the two but there would have been only so much one could take. He could see it was destroying the Family unit.. The fact that he left her and took the child was the moment she hit rock bottom. Maybe he knew that.
    I also loved that Cat went back to Nantucket and made amends with her other Family. Nice too that the cousins were able to form a friendship. Lots of twists that turned out later on that wasn`t expected.
    I found it a compelling read, not my usual type of reading, but I just loved it. I would be looking for more of Jane`s books in future. I would recommend this book to all my friends.

  2. Jane Green’s Summer Secrets was one of those books that once I had started reading it, when I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about when I’d next have time to read it. Last night I said to myself “ok just another 50 pages tonight?” and then the next thing I knew it was 1am and I’d finished the whole book.

    So obviously I really enjoyed it. It was an easy read, although the subject matter wasn’t always easy, and even though the protagonist Cat was incredibly flawed she was still very likable, and also, as the book follows her through different stages in her life, very relatable.

    While much of the story takes place during Summers on Nantucket, and you could easily imagine yourself lying on a beach soaking up the sun (after having slip, slop, slapped yourself of course) immersing yourself in Cat’s world, the book works just as well as a wistful Winter read that you consume while curled up under blankets whilst drinking copious amounts of tea.

    I really like the way the book jumps through time to help explain the story, and was somewhat disappointed there was only one chapter told from the perspective of another character (Cat’s Mother). While I know the book deals with Cat’s story and her struggles, it would still have been nice to see how others around her either perceived her, or how they were affected by her. Although I know multiple perspective books sometimes have a tendency to get a little bit messy.

    I loved the parts of the story which take place on Nantucket. Jane Green’s description of the town, the landscape, the houses, and the people is just delightful and really helps to make you feel as if you are right there along with the rest of the characters.

    Being on Cat’s journey with her, as she deals with family issue, alcoholism, love, divorce, and motherhood, is powerful. Either you relate directly to things she is feeling, and her actions and reactions, and feel comforted in the knowledge you aren’t alone, or you know someone who has dealt with these issues, and it helps you develop a greater understanding and empathy for people in these situations.

  3. I found this book quite hard to get into – it simply did not grab me in the first few pages and had to read on for a while.

    I was not overly enthused by the main character but having said that and following her many forays into becoming sober, I did begin to appreciate her more as the story went along. To me, the outcome of her addition was predictable regarding her marriage and relationships and I did eventually admire the way she finally found her way out. I did admire the author’s senstivity in the way the alcoholism was depicted and appreciate it takes a brave person to face up to and beat the odds.

    I felt the character of Audrey – the mother of Cat – was not given nearly enough attention in the story. She seemed such an interesting person and would have loved to have learnt more about her and her life and particularly some follow up to her visit to Nantucket.

    I think overall I did develop much greater understanding of the way addiction can take over one’s life and it was pleasing to have the story unfold the way it did at the end.

  4. From the first chapter I was already involved with Cat’s character. It actually takes me back to when I was 15 years old and the lure of alcohol is presented to you. I found myself warming to Cat….she just wanted to be loved by some special male. She has a beautiful relationship with her mother Audrey but her Dad is another story. They never clicked as Cat got older and Cat always wished that her parents would divorce because she felt her dad didn’t treat her mother the best. He always seemed to put her and her mother down.

    To escape her dad, Cat resorted to Vodka to take her worries away.

    During the first couple of chapters we are thrown back to different eras. London 1969 and London 1998. I found going back with Audrey’s character enlightening to see where she started from. She got married and both seemed happy until Audrey hadn’t become pregnant. The whole situation was putting a strain on their marriage although her husband still loved her. It wasn’t till she got a letter from her Aunt in Nantucket needing help to move that she had some time away from her husband. I loved following the story of Audrey and her meeting of Brooks who also lives at Nantucket. I got involved reading the story of Audrey that just as I was getting into her character, it finishes and we are taken back to Cat in 1998.

    I would have liked to go more in depth of Audrey’s character as I found that really interesting.

    Cat learns that the dad she thought was her dad is actually someone else that Audrey had an affair with. She learns that he still lives in the same area and has two daughters. Cat is beside herself to know that she has a completely different dad and sisters elsewhere. She takes the initiative of going on a journey out to Nantucket to meet up with her new family. Everything seems to go well with one sister but the younger one seems resentful.

    We now follow Cat’s expedition to meet her biological dad and family and it is here we are following Cat with her journey. There were times where I would feel so completely upset with what Cat had to endure from her step sisters. There are lots of twists and lies in this novel that actually keep you entertained.

    Cat has a great gay friend Sam who you just fall in love with straight away. Every girl should have him as a friend. Then there is Jason, who Cat was married to and had a daughter Annie but they divorce down the track due to her drinking.

    I found this book to be memorable, sometimes tears would well up, times when I would smile and times when I would feel anger towards another character. There are tense situations that Cat had to endure with her step sisters. I loved the character of Cat. She would finally become a stronger woman in the end with something she had to do in relation to her alcohol days. I could not put the book down as I just wanted to know all the secrets.

    Once I reached the last page, I just felt such warmth and smiled that Cat would be successful now.

    Thank you to B&L for another great read. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

  5. Thank you so much Beauty and Lace for allowing me to review this book. It was a great novel, so much drama, and then some. I, like others was disappointed that the character of Audrey, Cat’s mum wasnt explored in greater depth, it would have made for even more captivating reading. So many issues here that make for such compelling reading – alcoholism, family issues, belonging and acceptance, divorce, revenge etc. Despite the error of her ways, you can’t help but love Cat and relate to her on some levels, her heart is in the right place and deep down she means well. I was really interested in the 12 steps in relation to her AA meetings and cant help but admire people that accomplish something like that. Her relationships in general were very interesting and it was great that she achieved some sense of closure at the end. One disappointment for me was the ending, which had her talking to her good friend Sam about her relationship with Jason, while the ending itself wasnt bad, I would have liked her to be talking to Jason and maybe even her daughter Annie. I’m a sucker for a happy ending. Overall though, this is a great read I strongly recommend.

  6. “Summer Secrets” is an astonishingly compassionate portrait of a woman struggling with alcoholism. It balances compassion and understanding with an unvarnished view of the damage she does to herself and those around her when she’s drinking. I was really impressed by the depth of the characterisation and the understanding the author brought to Cat (the central character). The acknowledgements suggest Green has personal experience with alcoholism, which only makes it the more impressive that she can be both compassionate and bluntly honest about it.

    Cat is 27 when her world is turned upside down by a revelation about her father – the man she always called father is not, in fact, her biological father. Cat’s drinking is already becoming a problem, but one she hasn’t recognised. She is completely unprepared for what she does to herself and those she wants to impress when she goes to visit her “new” family.

    Sixteen years later, Cat has faced her alcoholism full on, acknowledged it, and appears to be winning the daily struggle not to drink. But the impact of her drinking continues to reverberate through her life; we see it in her broken marriage, her sometimes shaky relationship with her daughter, her career, and in the damage she did so long ago to her siblings. Cat chooses to try to make amends despite her fears.

    It’s Cat’s character that really carries this novel. She’s a really vivid character, one you empathise with even when you’re horrified by her behaviour. There’s a sort of everywoman flavour about her – you may not choose to respond the way she does, but I bet you’ll have felt at least some of the emotions she expresses, particularly in her teenage and young adult years. Because of this, readers will really care about what happens to her, and this will help pull you through the story.

    Other characters are strong, but Cat is so firmly front and centre that they’re all just a touch faded in comparison. The plot is interesting, but not groundbreaking, and with no unforeseen twists, really. Despite that, I found it hard to put “Summer Secrets” down. It’s well written, with an easy flow, and concern for Cat made it hard to leave the novel.

    I recommend this; it’s a light read in the sense that it’s very easy to zip through, but there’s a lot of substance to the subject matter, how it’s treated, and as I’ve said, Cat. It’s worth your time, and although you may not remember it in a decade, I think you’ll find yourself giving it some thought long after you’ve finished it.

  7. Hi all – Have just finished reading “Summer Secrets” and even though it was a easy read, there were interesting characters and themes, it wasn’t a story that really excited me from beginning through to the end. Just nothing really stood out to me. There was a lot of skipping through time which I am usually a fan but we were left with lots of questions that were never really answered fully like her mother,both her father, sisters etc. Jane Green was able to describe the settings well and I could put myself into Cat’s shoes. I too love a happy ending and was not disappointed with that. Jane was respectful in the portrayal of alcoholism which I am sure many people would be able to relate to – some with a laugh and some with sadness.
    I agree with Loraine – it was worth the read but whether you remember it in a year or so – there were moments.Overall a easy interesting entertaining summer read. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to be part of this discussion.

  8. I really enjoyed this easy read. Enjoyed the characters, settings and scenarios. I found that I didn’t want to put it down. I could relate to the storyline and characters.
    Thank you Beauty and Lace for giving me the opportunity to read and review this.

  9. A story line covering a sensitive issue with compete style. I love Cat right from the beginning but wasn’t quite sure of how she would evolve throughout the story and how she would cope with each hurdle she had to go over. The other characters, her mother playing a minor role but extremely important in terms of the story and how Cat’s life panned out, Brooks, again a small part but major role and her sisters…..well I never expected the change! The story was a complete surprise to me in that it not only covered alcoholic issues but that aside, also fractured family issues. Well done, Jane Green, you have addressed in true style subjects not often written about but should be. I would recommend this book to any of my friends and others to read. A light read albeit, but a very good read. Loved the ending too!

  10. I have read books by Jane Green in the past and as I knew I loved her writing style and her easy flow storylines, I knew I was in for another treat with this novel.

    Alcoholism is a tricky one for me personally having grown up most of my childhood life alone with my mother who suffered from it (and still does). So as I read certain chapters taking me deep within the mind and life of one bought back painful and deeply sorrowful memories. It is hard to love an alcoholic, I will just put it out there blunt. It is a horrid disease which can bring out the absolute worst in someone and there is no going back to change the things you do and say when you decide to drink and lose control. I have been told it can be hereditary which is why I have grown up many a times the odd one out seemingly a loser or too good to drink because I have chosen not to ever touch the stuff because there is no way in hell I want to turn out like my mother and put my own children through anything like what I went though. So in saying all of that I can definitely relate to many things in this book!

    I liked Cat, however I had a difficult time sympathising with her, even with everything from her past and present partially explained. I guess that just comes down to my own struggles with forgiveness on the same issues. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to get over, and I still can’t quite forgive and I definitely cannot forget even though I would love to!

    This book has been written so well. Jane has not let me down, don’t get me wrong, it is just a hard topic for me to love reading. I even got angry reading parts of this book because of Cat’s decisions and the things she did….Perhaps if the book was longer and more of her life was explained and many of my questions answered, then I would be able to like her and ‘get’ her a bit more, however there is always room for a sequel or probably more appropriate a pre-qual! 😉

    Overall a great read and I would recommend giving it a go. It just really hit home for me personally and not a topic I like to think about frankly. But I am grateful and glad I got the end of it none the less, I think it is a great insight into the world of an alcoholic and many could take something from reading this book.

    Thanks B&L! High five Jane Green! xx

  11. Summer Secrets is such a compelling read, I found it hard to put his book down for even five minutes. I can totally relate to Cats issues having a sister-in-law and nephew who suffer from the dreadful disease – alcoholism. Even though I have faced these issues first hand, Cat on the other hand appears to be the sort of person that should and could defeat this insidious disease, if anyone can. She has so much support and guidance.

    The long held secret kept from Cat from her mother certainly rocked her world. It was devastating that her problem with drink and the subsequent affair ended up destroying her relationship with her new found sister.

    Eventually Cat learns to find recovery through AA meetings and to continue to actively seek out her sobriety. She has come to the point of making amends with the last two people on her list, the two she’s been putting off because of the magnitude of what she has done..

    I particularly loved how the author went into great depth to describe the beauty of the Nanntucket. countryside , she was so descriptive. I felt that I had been transported to this lovely place and truly felt the warmth of the people whilst embracing the relaxed county lifestyle.

    A great easy entertaining read. I will definitely be seeking out this author in the future and highly recommend it as must read.

    Thank Beauty and Lace for the opportunity.

  12. This was a really interesting book. The book was really easy to read and easy to understand.

    I found it really addictive when the story had switched between the two different times and the two different perspectives. I wanted to find out more about the two characters (mum and daughter). They are both so different and their personalities are interesting.

    I can’t say I relate to the characters. I don’t know anyone dealing with alcoholism, nor have I been inside any of their lives and their worlds. But it was really interesting to see it from a different perspective. It’s always good to get different perspectives.

    Overall, it was an interesting and easy read. I would recommend it to every one.

  13. Thank you for the opportunity to review. I have enjoyed reading Jane’s books for many years, so eagerly jumped in.

    Wow – such an amazing insight into the life of an alcoholic.
    A sensitive subject matter that was dealt with incredibly well. Sympathetic but still realistic. The main character has many struggles and I felt myself cringe at some points and willing her to do the right thing.

    Yes it might be considered light hearted summer reading but I felt it had a whole lot more substance than many of the “chic-lit” books out at the moment.

    I would absolutely recommend this book and look forward to Jane’s next book!

  14. “I loved this book and can’t rate it high enough.

    After reading the blurb for this book I was really hesitant to read it as who wants to read about a drunk girl finding out about her father. In a shop I would have put it back down. Thanks to Beauty and Lace for making me read it. I read about 3/4’s of the book in one day as I really struggled to put it down.

    Cat is a character that you fall in love with straight away. Her life is messed up while those around her are moving on and getting on with life in the ‘right’ kind of way.

    Cat’s drinking has lead to poor choices and finally a bad night drinking had in fact found her the perfect man. He just needs her to stay sober. She tries, oh she tries very hard many times but that little voice would always be pushed aside and alcohol would win.

    She finally gets the chance to meet her father and makes some discoveries along the way. Big mistakes are made but life moves on and lessons are learnt.

    The way Jane Green has taken on the telling of a story about alcoholism is a big one but she has done it with a lot of understanding and love.

    I will not tell anymore of the story instead tell you that you must put this book on your reading list.

    It is a wonderful, touching story about love, family, trust, alcohol, mistakes, endings and new beginnings. It’s a story that will touch you in more ways than one.”

  15. I love this author and I was excited to get hold of this book for review.

    I felt for Cat as she was an alcoholic and glad that she met Jason who was successful and attractive as well. When she went to AA, I thought that she would be able to address her alcoholism but it felt like she wasn’t really doing it for herself. When she went to Nantucket, I felt more connected with the character and thought she would be able to turn her life around. I wondered if Audrey would have been able to handle the situation better. The setting in Nantucket made me really engrossed in this story and I sped through this book easily. It was a great read and I’m now upset that I finished the book.

  16. I absolutely loved this book. It took me longer to read it than I would have liked though (had nothing to do with the book and more because all of a sudden work got super busy). From page one I was hooked and wanted to know what it was about the character Cat that had everyone so intrigued.

    There were times in the story where I felt like I was reading about myself or a friend and than other times when I thought you can see the issue, just stop and think about what you are doing for a minute!

    As the timelines and locations changed, it made the story become more real and the connection between not only the characters but also me towards the book grew immensely.

    It was a shame the book had to end as I was enjoying the twisted life that made point of love, mistakes and second chances.

  17. Summer Secrets is definitely not a light read but I enjoyed the roller coaster ride the story took me on, from start to finish.
    It is a realistic portrayal of a woman who is an alcoholic. Gritty and brutally honest at times.
    I did not want to put this book down.

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