Author: Emylia Hall
The Book Of Summers is Emylia Hall’s debut novel and was inspired by childhood holidays spent in rural Hungary. This book evokes a myriad of emotional responses sure to touch everyone who had a childhood shared between separated parents.
Covered in what I can only guess is Morning Glory on a background of glorious sky blue this volume is eye catching and reminiscent of summer. It is a paperback book but has the foldout cover flaps which I always consider using as a bookmark but can never bring myself to.
The Book Of Summers is set in the present but much of the story takes place in the past by way of a trip down memory lane.
From very early on you know that something big has happened to further tear apart an estranged family but you can never be sure just what it is. The answer to this is never even hinted at throughout the book though whenever Aunt Jessica visits you can tell there is something she disapproves of.
Beth is a puzzle to all of those around her, something of an enigma that no-one has been allowed close enough to unravel. For reasons as yet unknown Beth keeps everyone at a distance, never letting anyone close enough to really know her. We learn early on that this is in some way related to her childhood but it isn’t until the closing chapters that we discover the life-changing event that totally changed the course of her life – and her name.
An unscheduled visit from her father sets the wheels in motion for a big discovery, because that’s something that just isn’t done so there is sure to be more to it than a family catch-up. With him he brings a parcel that has arrived in the post, a parcel that resonates with the past and comes very close to being discarded unopened.
Eventually the parcel is opened and found to contain a letter bearing bad news and a photo album with the power to transport Beth to the childhood summers that held such promise when she holidayed in rural Hungary with her mother. Snapshots that thrust her back to that time, that place and allow us to share her time in Hungary. A time of awakening and growing up where she was free to explore and experiment.
As Beth remembers we tag along and hear all about her childhood. The week in Hungary is vivid and detailed allowing us to really share the experience with her, as she grows and matures under the Hungarian summer sun. The rest of the year isn’t completely left out but it is skimmed through briefly with the entire year taking as much time and space as that one magical week.
Beth grows up spending time not only with two separated parents but in two separate countries and in two very different worlds. Hungary is all about life, love, beauty and vivacity which can not compare to the dull and drab existence in England where it’s all about looking forward to the next letter, the next phone call, the next visit – where everything is about the anticipation of Hungary.
All of this takes us on that path down memory lane through the entry into puberty, the first crush, the first kiss, the first smoke, the first drink – all of which take place in Hungary. Almost like life is put on hold in England and all of the living happens in that one magical summer week in Hungary.
So what could possibly happen in that 7th Hungarian summer visit to change the balance so much that the book is shut, along with that place in heart and head where Hungary resides and Beth manages to erase all of Hungary as if it never existed? Well that’s something you are going to have to discover for yourself – I’m not telling.
This is a book that touched me as I think it will touch all who have grown up with separated parents. A book that describes that search for identity where your location changes who you are, different people in different places so who does that make you if something changes?
Our panel members have been reading The Book of Summers, find out what they thought below…