The Last Summer – Judith Kinghorn

The Last Summer

Published
02/02/2012

Publisher
Headline Review

My Rating – 4 stars

I must confess to having grown a bit weary of dual-time frame novels so it was a delight to pick up The Last Summer knowing that it would focus on one particular period in history, the Great War and beyond.  Brownie points are awarded for the inclusion of a sumptuous country house, Deyning Park – come Spring, of a weekend, you will find my family and I wandering around the grounds of Mount Stewart, a National Trust property, not unlike Deyning with its own lake and beautifully manicured gardens and grounds.   I find myself often wondering what it was like in its heyday with cocktails and croquet on the lawn….anyway, if you read The Last Summer you are instantly transported back to that world without even having to leave the comfort of your own armchair.

Our story begins in the early summer of 1914 with events narrated by Clarissa, the privileged daughter of the wealthy Granville family.  During a weekend party she meets and falls in love with Tom Cuthbert, the housekeeper’s son, who is “allowed” to socialise with his betters for a short while while on holiday from university.  War interrupts this burgeoning, forbidden romance and ends what Clarissa describes as a “belle epoque”,  turning everything on its head but will attitudes change to such an extent that their partnership will ever be accepted in polite society?

This is an epic yet surprisingly compact story which draws you in from the opening pages.  It does no harm, I guess, that Downton Abbey is currently enjoying such success with the Great British Public and even further afield as Downton devotees will fall equally in love with Deyning Park and its inhabitants.   The characters are vivid and engaging with just the right amount of flaws to make them appear “almost” one of us.  The author does a splendid job of recreating the accepted mores of post-Edwardian society including the seedier side of drug-taking as well as the intense suffering of those returning from the Front.  Yes, there’s a lot packed into just over 400 pages but it remains an immensely readable, compelling story.

Highly recommended for all romantics and an extremely fine debut – looking forward to her next offering for my future romantic fix…

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3 Comments

  1. I like the sound of this one, I’ve not read many books set in WW1.

  2. admin says:

    I’ve read a few but most of them focused on the soldiers’ stories – this made a pleasant change as it was more about those left at home and the whole barrier created by class differences which still persisted.

  3. [...] enjoyed Judith Kinghorn’s debut novel The Last Summer I eagerly  anticipated her second novel The Memory of Lost Senses published by Headline on 23rd [...]

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