Thursday, 26 January 2012
The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn - sweeping historical romance
I read it on a train to London, and it took me two journeys to demolish it - a substantial novel then.
The Last Summer is set during the beginnings of World War I and tells the story of Clarissa, who loses her luxurious lifestyle and her home during the book.Impeccably written and well-researched this is an atmospheric and haunting read. It takes the reader from languorous summer days by the lake on a country estate to the horror of the trenches with equal aplomb.
The love story at its heart unfolds over sixteen years or so, so this is no flash in the pan romance but the real thing. Judith Kinghorn skilfully navigates our journey through love and loss, and despite the fact the reader knows that Clarissa and Tom must somehow find the inevitable happy ending the tension is nicely built through all the different episodes.Part of the story unfolds through letters which hold a secret not revealed until the end.
The social and historical background feels real. Clarissa's journey from society debutante to independent woman who wants to work for herself must be the journey many women took in this period and the book highlights this nicely. The back of the novel says it was "the end of a belle epoque" and Clarissa senses this before it is made real to her through the events in the story. People have likened this book to Downton Abbey, but it is not quite as cosy. Death and duty are here too, and the stifling repression of the moneyed classes.
This is a perfect balance of romance and grit, by a great new writer. Don't miss it.