Author: Jane Green
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.
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.