As a seasoned reader of books, I can usually tell as soon as I see one whether I’ll like it or not. And as I opened a package to find Emylia Hall’s debut novel The Book of Summers, I knew right away. Scrolled atop the turquoise cover: ‘Every Summer was perfect. Until the last,’; and the blurb; an extract from the book conveying hot Hungarian memories.
Set in both contemporary London and bygone rural Hungary, The Book of Summers is both evocative and hugely atmospheric with vividly painted characters, creating a truly beautiful and haunting read.
The novel starts in London, when thirty year-old Beth receives a package from her late mother’s partner, containing The Book of Summers, a scrapbook of snapshots lovingly created over a period of seven years. As soon as the book begins, the reader is swept away by the wonderful imagery as Emylia expertly paints a tale of seven long, hot summers in Hungary, in which love, lies and loss play an intimate part. As with many of my favourite books, the setting of The Book of Summers is as integral a part of the tale as any of the central characters, and the place is so wonderfully painted by Hall that the readers is transported to the rugged Hungarian landscape of summers gone by.
And thus follows a kaleidoscope of bittersweet memories, as Beth revisits her childhood through a series of photos portraying her at different stages of her life; each with a different tale behind it.
A nostalgic coming of age illustration, The Book of Summers weaves an intriguing plot alongside the perfect depiction of adolescence. Emylia writes with a flawless narrative as she fuses heartbreak, regret and the power of secrets to produce a heart-wrenching tale of loss.
Poignant and utterly captivating, this beautiful debut will stay with you long after its ending.
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