BOOK CLUB: The Book of Summers

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Author: Emylia Hall
ISBN: 978-0-7553-9084-7
RRP: $29.99

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.

the book of summers

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…

41 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Book of Summers

  1. Thank you for giving me the chance to review this book. My first impression was the gorgeous presentation it came in, in a tote bag labelled The Book of Summers and the book cover too with its beautiful blue and green cover was equally gorgeous and well presented. But onto the book. I have to be honest and say this book was really slow and it took ages to take off but yet still I was intrigued by the stark contrast of Devon and Hungary and the relationships between Beth and her father and that of her and Marika. I did feel that the relationship of Beth and her father could have been acknowledged abit more earlier in the piece rather than just focusing on the exotic Marika and the relationship of Beth and Tams could have been explored further at the end of the book.
    Other than that, in the end, once the twists and revelations came about, the author finished the story up well.

  2. I started the book and found it very slow going, found it very easy to put down after reading a few pages, and read on and off over a week, as I had lost interest in the story as it sometimes was to descriptive. Chapter 9 started with a twist, that I did not expect, and I read the rest of the book without stopping, sometimes with a tear in my eye , for Eresi her father and Marika and their relationship

  3. The Book of Summers is definitely one to add to your ‘must read’ list. I found it a little slow going to begin with, but it’s definitely worth sticking with as it’s a real gem of a read that has left me planning my next holiday to Hungary.

  4. From the moment I opened the package in the mail and saw the book, I took an immediate liking to it. The warm blue, hints of metallic gold and air of mysterious summers in distant lands – it was an enticing literary invitation. The tote bag that also arrived from the publishers was another nice surprise!

    Though I did personally find the book a bit slow to get into, it quickly developed into a captivating story of memories, relationships and emotional growth – a very universal exploration of humanity that allows the audience to easily empathize and relate to the very realistic characters of the novel, specifically Beth. Her childhood summers in rural Hungary provide the backbone of the story and slowly unravel to reveal the aspects of her past that contributed to the person that she is today. The story also builds up well to the final revealing chapters at the end – for those who are yet to read it, hang in there because it will be worth it.

    Emylia Hall writes in a style that flows smoothly and makes for easy reading, whilst continuing to capture the raw essence of the story, and I specifically enjoyed the very rich and detailed descriptions of the Hungarian scenery. The book will probably not appeal strongly to readers who enjoy fast-paced novels with a lot of action as this is more of a melancholy, narrated tale, but if you are looking for a journey into exotic places and stepping into the shoes of some interesting characters, this will be a good book for you.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace for giving me the opportunity to review this book. 🙂

  5. I was very lucky to be able to read this Book Club book and this is very different to movie & TV reviewing. I have a new respect for Michelle, that’s for sure.

    As a woman with a difficult relationship with my mother, I found the story all too familiar. I was drawn into Beth’s world, especially in Hungary, as she tried to anchor herself to the land, desperate to belong somewhere. I felt there was always something simmering beneath the surface and if Beth relinquished any control of her emotions, her world would come crashing down again.

    I could feel the differences between England & Hungary as keenly as Beth could….. the colours, the food, the smells, the landscape. The author gave us 2 worlds and painted both with equal passion.

    A lovely book with hidden depths as we meander through summers in Hungary and watch a woman discover who she really is.

  6. This book dragged me in pretty much instantly. The author’s use of words paints such vivid pictures that I felt i was there amongst it. Beth’s character intrigues me, I loved the way her mind works, the way she sees things & processes them.
    I would definately recommend this book & thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Thanks so much beauty & lace! 🙂

  7. All I can say it’s a beautiful story. Difficult to get into in the beginning, and took longer for me to finish as it was easy to put down. But I persisted and I’m glad I did . Hungary was never on my list of holiday destinations before I read this book. Now it is!
    I loved the over and the calico bag was a great touch.

  8. Well, it looks like I’m going to have to disagree with most of you…..I just could not get into this book; made it about half way through and had to concede defeat which is most unlike me.
    I could not connect with any of the characters at all: the mother Marika seemed to be a caricature of which I have read many times before. When I read the blurb about the book I anticipated that I would really enjoy it: it sounded quite intruiging – but it was just not to be.
    I really wanted to like this book, but it just failed to grip me.

  9. I found this a very sad book but extremely vivid and descriptive but not boringly so! I did not see the ending coming…I mean I knew something was bubbling there but now I can kind of understand why Marika left Beth to pursue her own life. Still a tough decision and very sad that the two of them never made peace. One of those books that remind us to make the most of each day and not to hold grudges.

  10. The Book of Summers .
    Firstly I thought the artwork was stunning. Had I seen it on a shelf it would have enticed me to buy it! The calico bag was also a nice idea.
    Like some of the others I found it somewhat hard to “get into” but I did persist and glad I had. The characters were interesting enough.. although I didnt have a lot of empathy for the father in the story.
    I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others.
    Thanks B&L for the opportunity to review. x

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