Sunday, 18 March 2012

Books Read: Emylia Hall - The Book of Summers

Source - Received from Real Readers to review

Inside is a letter informing her that her long-estranged mother has died, and a scrapbook Beth has never seen before. Entitled The Book of Summers, it's stuffed with photographs and mementos complied by her mother to record the seven glorious childhood summers Beth spent in rural Hungary.

It was a time when she trod the tightrope between separated parents and two very different countries; her bewitching but imperfect Hungarian mother and her gentle, reticent English father; the dazzling house of a Hungarian artist and an empty-feeling cottage in deepest Devon. And it was a time that came to the most brutal of ends the year Beth turned sixteen.

Since then, Beth hasn't allowed herself to think about those years of her childhood. But the arrival of The Book of Summers brings the past tumbling back into the present; as vivid, painful and vital as ever.

I signed up to Real Readers when I set up this blog last year and last month I received my first book to review, this debut novel by Emylia Hall.

The story begins with Beth as an adult, living and working in London, and from the outset it's clear that she does not have a normal relationship with her parents.  So when her father turns up with a  parcel for her that has arrived from Hungary, she knows that this is likely to stir up a lot of memories, both good and bad.  Her mother Marika, left her and her family during a family holiday in Hungary when Beth, or Erzsi as she was called, was a child.

At first she ignored the parcel but eventually curiosity gets to her and she opens it to find a letter from Zoltan, Marika's partner, telling her that she has passed away and enclosing a book that Marika had made for her.

The book captures the seven summers that Erzsi spent in Hungary,  from the ages of 10 to 16, with Marika and Zoltan and through the photos Beth recalls memories from each of those summer vacations including her first love, neighbour Tamas.

I wasn't sure at first if this was a book that I would enjoy, and at first it did take me a while to get into it, but towards the end I was wanting to continue reading to find out what exactly had happened between Erzsi and Marika which would explain why they had had no contact with each other since she was 16.

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