The summer the Dovers move in next door, sixteen-year-old Helen’s lonely world is at once a more thrilling place. She is infatuated with the bohemian family, especially the petulant and charming daughter Victoria.
As the long, hot days stretch out in front of them, Helen and Victoria grow inseparable. But when a stranger appears, Helen begins to question whether the secretive Dover family are really what they seem.
It’s the kind of summer when anything seems possible… until something goes wrong.
There are blog tours and there are blog tours – this one’s a bit special, and author Sarah Jasmon has worked so hard. If you haven’t read any of the posts, do visit a few of the stops – some of Sarah’s guest posts have really enhanced my reading of her wonderful book, The Summer of Secrets.
I have a little treat for you today. I was wearing my cloak of invisibility when she was putting her blog tour poster together, but it’s lovely to be an “extra” (you don’t get this on all blog tours…) and to be able to offer a signed paperback copy to one lucky UK reader. More later, but let me first tell you about this wonderful debut, published on 13th August by Black Swan.
Even if you never go anywhere near the blog tour posts, this is a book to be experienced. It evokes and recreates for all the senses those endless teenage summer days, the awkwardness and self-consciousness, the intensity of teenage female friendships, the teetering at the edge of adulthood, the excitement of the unusual. Every page is suffused with a stifling heat – the heat of the sun coupled with the tension, much of it driven by the intensity of the relationships and the sexual undercurrents, that makes it into a pressure cooker waiting to explode.
Helen as a teenager, at the story’s centre, is a wonderful creation. You feel for her desperately as her father largely ignores her, working on the boat he never entirely plans to finish, drinking himself to oblivion each night. She reminded me of myself at sixteen – a bit of a loner, the awkwardness, the self-consciousness, the reading in the garden. I still have a journal I kept over the long holidays when I was sixteen with some of my very earliest reviews, a record of the five books a week I read over that rather solitary summer (the Dovers never did move in next-door…) – it’s a difficult age, even with a good home and a loving family.
It’s very easy to imagine – and feel – her delight at the arrival of the exotic Dover family, a refuge from her father’s misery, a different and exciting world. Helen as an adult is more of a challenge – do read the book first, but the author’s post on neverimitate yesterday really helped me to understand why the events of that summer had such a devastating personal impact.
Every character in this book is quite exquisitely drawn, and I love the slightly distorted lens through which we see them. Actually, I should say “feel” rather than “see” – for a large part of this book, you experience what it’s actually like to be drawn into the heart of the chaotic Dover family, and there’s a feeling akin to bereavement when you’re not part of it any more. The writing is quite beautiful – scenes that remain vivid in the memory, emotions you feel deeply. The canal and its surroundings really become a vivid character and presence in this book – I used to live on the Leeds-Liverpool canal in the early 80s, walking the overgrown towpaths past disused locks, and witnessed the gentrification Helen finds on her return.
Enough – others have written much more and much better about this one, so do visit some of the stops on the blog tour. But more importantly, do read this excellent book – I loved every moment of it, and I’m sure you will too.
The competition to win a new paperback copy of The Summer Of Secrets, signed and dedicated by the author, is now closed. The winner was chosen in the old-fashioned way, with a hat and folded bits of paper – congratulations to Marie Judd! I’ll be in touch with Marie shortly to ask her about anything particular she’d like in the dedication. Thank you to everyone who entered, and I’m sorry you were unlucky this time round.
My thanks to netgalley and publishers Black Swan (Random House UK/Transworld) for my advance reading e-copy. And a big thank you to Sarah for making me her extra special blog tour bonus.
Sarah Jasmon lives on a canal boat near Manchester with her children. She has had several short stories published, is curating a poetry anthology, and has recently graduated from the Creative Writing MA course at Manchester Metropolitan University. To find out more about Sarah and her writing, visit her excellent website: she can also frequently be found on Twitter and Facebook.