Official Synopsis from Goodreads: Physician Bess Codman has returned to her family’s Nantucket compound, Cliff House, for the first time in four years. Her great-grandparents built Cliff House almost a century before, but due to erosion, the once-grand home will soon fall into the sea. Though she’s purposefully avoided the island, Bess must now pack up the house and deal with her mother, a notorious town rabble-rouser, who refuses to leave.
The Book of Summer unravels the power and secrets of Cliff House as told through the voices of Ruby Packard, a bright-eyed and idealistic newlywed on the eve of WWII, the home’s definitive guestbook, and Bess herself. Bess’s grandmother always said it was a house of women, and by the very last day of the very last summer at Cliff House, Bess will understand the truth of her grandmother’s words in ways she never contemplated.
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction
Setting: Nantucket – the story goes back and forth between 2013 and 1941-1945
*** I received an eARC copy of The Book of Summer from St Martin’s Press via NetGalley***
Review: Predictable and odd, but the characters worked their way into my heart by the end.
When I first picked up The Book of Summer, I was hoping to read something lighthearted and cute, without any mention or reference to WWII, as I’d been reading a lot of WWII books lately. Unfortunately, this book definitely was none of these things. Well, parts of it were lighthearted and cute, but there was a definite WWII story here, that somehow I missed noticing on the synopsis. Whoops! So this book was not what I was looking to read when I read it, and I think this factored into my feelings about the book.
The book is told from the point of view of Bess, an ER doc in San Francisco, who travels home to Nantucket to help move her mother, Cissy Codman, out of the historic Cliff House, which is teetering on the edge of falling into the Atlantic. Besides Bess, we also go back in time to WWII era, and hear from Ruby, who happens to be Bess’s grandmother (and Cissy’s mother).
The time shifts are handled well, and I preferred the plot of Bess and Cissy and trying to save Cliff House from erosion rather than the WWII plotline. I think this may be just because I’ve been reading so much WWII lately, that I’m a bit weary of this time frame right now.
Bess’s mother, Cissy, really irritated me at first. For example, Bess arrives at the airport, and Cissy goes to pick her up at the airport. On a bike. This didn’t endear me to Cissy at all; I was just irritated by her. But by the end of the book I liked Cissy and had warmed to her larger-than-life personality. Besides Cissy, we’ve got what is perhaps the best-named character I’ve read in quite some time: Chappy Mayhew. He’s the cranky man who lives across the street, who has a feud with Cissy, and oh yeah, Chappy’s son, Evan, just happens to be an ex-love of Bess’s.
Bess is going through a divorce, from a nasty man named Brandon, and is at somewhat of a crossroads in her life. You can sense the predictability here with these plotlines, and while it was fine, it was predictable.
Back in WWII time, the plot is a bit more original, and shines a light on how the US military treated gay men. I can’t recall reading a book that spotlights this issue, so this issue and the saving homes from erosion issue in the modern sections felt fresh and interesting to me. The characters in the WWII time were fine. Ruby was a bit too naïve for me, and Hattie, a new friend from Europe was intriguing, but I don’t think enough was done with her character.
There are two small parts of the book that were exceedingly odd to me. There’s one scene between Bess and her soon-to-be-ex-husband with verbal abuse, which was so disturbing and frankly bizarre, and another scene back in 1941 time where Ruby sees something she shouldn’t, that was just kind of odd. Without spoilers, I will say that I thought both of these scenes could’ve been edited down, and the reader would still understand what was happening.
There was a lot of language in this book, which surprised me. I wasn’t expecting the swearing, so that jarred me out of the narrative whenever a character would swear.
I couldn’t quite connect to any of the characters. They are all wealthy, and live on a fancy island back east, and I just couldn’t connect to their mindset and their way of life, or anything about them. It’s not that I didn’t like them; I just didn’t connect on any level. I’m not exactly sure why. But by the end of the book I wanted Bess to have her happy ending, and I wanted Cissy to be able to find a way to stay in Cliff House.
I think some people will really like this book. It’s got an interesting setting, on Nantucket, and I could see the fancy houses and the smell the sea as I read, but I just failed to connect to the story and the characters.
Bottom Line: A bit lackluster and predictable. I couldn’t connect to the characters. I rated this book three stars on Goodreads.
The Book of Summer will be published on May 9, 2017.
Does this sound like an interesting read? Do you enjoy reading books that go back and forth in time?