“The dark days of the war are over, but the family secrets they held are only just dawning.
In the hot summer of 1949, a group of family and friends gather at Harry Denholm’s country house in Kent. Meg and Dan Ranscombe, emerging from a scandal of their own making; Dan’s godmother, Sonia; and her two young girls, Laura and Avril, only one of whom is Sonia’s biological daughter. Amongst the heat, memories, and infatuations, a secret is revealed to Meg’s son, Max, and soon a terrible tragedy unfolds that will have consequences for them all.
Afterwards, Avril, Laura and Max must come of age in a society still reeling from the war, haunted by the choices of that fateful summer. Cold, entitled Avril will go to any lengths to take what is hers. Beautiful, naive Laura finds refuge and love in the London jazz clubs, but Max, with wealth and unrequited love, has the capacity to undo it all.”
I’m so delighted today to be taking part in the blog tour for the latest book by one of my favourite authors, Caro Fraser. Thank you to Melanie Price at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part.
I have been a huge fan of Caro Fraser’s books for years, her Caper Court series being books I return to time after time for unbeatable plotting and characterisation so I was delighted to be offered the chance to review her latest novel Summer of Love. This is in a different vein from the contemporary Caper Court books being, as the title suggests, set in the post-war period from 1949 until the swinging sixties.
The book centres around the lives of Max, Avril and Laura from their childhood until their coming of ages. The tragic events of one sultry summer day in 1949 leave a mark on each of them and their relationship to each other that continues to affect them all in to adulthood.
This book is an affecting exploration of how the circumstances of our birth and childhood and how our parents choose to raise us and what they let us believe about ourselves can have unforeseen consequences that ripple out endlessly throughout our lives, affecting all of our future decisions and relationships. The ideas raised are absorbing and thought-provoking and I know it is a book I will continue to think about long after I have closed the pages and placed it to one side in favour of something new.
The characters in this book are multi-dimensional and complicated and quickly draw he reader into their world, making us eager to know and understand them. Not all of them are likeable – one of the main characters is largely downright unpleasant – but are written in such a way that we still want to try and work out what has made them that way, what makes them tick and realise that their behaviour is perhaps holding them back from making them as fulfilled and contented as they could be.
The main draw of this book for me is the time period in which it is set and the frenetic and complicated social change taking place in that era. The years from just after the war to he mid-sixties was a time of immense transfiguration in Britain as the country rebuilt itself after the war and decided where its future lay. The younger generation were sometimes at odds with their parents, shaking off the shackles of propriety and restraint and searching for freedom and expression but there were still boundaries that could not be crossed, certain types of behaviour that would not be tolerated. This book explores brilliantly the contrast between the freedom and experimentation the youth were indulging in by way of new art and ideas, drugs, music and casual sex and the stigma still attached to homosexuality, inter-racial relationships, unmarried mothers etc. In this novel, Caro adeptly demonstrates how confusing it was for the people trying to navigate this uncertain time period when all social boundaries were being tested and where rejecting guidance and discipline from the older generation lead not only to freedom but also a sense of being alone in any plight the exercise of those freedoms brought on themselves.
The setting of he novel, between the quietness and staidness of the post-war English countryside and the grittiness of urban London emphasised this contrast and the author brings both settings vividly to life through enticing and eloquent descriptions. There is also a demonstration of the beginnings of the blurring of class distinctions during this period, with modern art and music encroaching on the upper crust echelons of the art world and the upsurge in popularity of fashion and music paving the way for the lower classes, who were making their mark in these fields, to mix with the monied set. It was a time of huge opportunity and this book manages to embody all the excitement and potential, as well as uncertainty that people must have felt at that time. For those of us too young to have lived through it, it is an enticing peek in to a world long gone but one that has paved the way for so much of what we take for granted today.
This book is not only a beautifully written and complex story of family relationships and personal exploration but also an intelligent snapshot of an exciting period of social history. The writing makes you think and leaves you with a feeling that you have gained a huge amount from the time investing in reading it and maybe a slightly better understanding of a huge stepping stone on the way to the society we have today, together with some ideas about how much further we may have to go. I revelled in every word of it.
Summer of Love is out now and you can buy a copy here.
Thank you to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
If you would like to see what other great bloggers think of the book, you can follow the tour here:
About the Author
Caro Fraser is the author of the bestselling Caper Court novels, based on her own experiences as a lawyer. She is the daughter of Flashman author George MacDonald Fraser and lives in London.
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