Indian Summer by Marcia Willett

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Indian Summer by Marcia Willett

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: A neighbourhood with actors, landowners and army people; they are concerned with financial problems, an old flame, a potential affair and some deeply hidden secrets. Marcia Willett's skill at characterisation makes this a delightful read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 283 Date: September 2014
Publisher: Bantam Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780593071533

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Mungo is a retired actor and director. His brother Archie is a landowner, struggling to make ends meet. Kit is a good friend who comes to stay, wanting a safe place while she decides whether or not to get in touch with a former boyfriend. Neighbours include Emma, an army wife with two small children who is tempted to an affair with a friend of her husband’s, and the elderly brothers Philip and Billy who have a secret that’s been hidden for forty years...

Marcia Willett has become one of my favourite writers in recent years. She didn’t begin writing until she was fifty, and has managed to publish about twenty-five books in less than twenty years. They are character-based with quite large casts, yet each person is memorable, with his or her quirks and endearing characteristics that make me love being part of their little community for the duration of each book.

This one is set entirely in this small neighbourhood in Devon, with a few forays to a nearby café, in a long late Summer. Each character is introduced gently; some of them featured in previous novels, and I was delighted to meet Kit once more - she was a favourite in the Chadwick trilogy. Yet it’s not necessary to have read any of the author’s previous books. It’s quite a talent to be able to use former characters without either leaving new readers overwhelmed, or loyal fans annoyed by recaps. Marcia Willett manages it.

She succeeds, too, in giving just enough description to give an overview of each scene, from the point of view of her various viewpoint characters, yet without such sensory details becoming tedious.

There doesn’t seem to be much plot to start with; just a couple of women pondering possible romances. But this belies the contrast between Kit and Emma and their situations, the tension that arises - particularly with Emma - and the many other subplots that weave around them, including some rather shocking revelations towards the end of the book.

I always appreciate the way that Marcia Willett keeps her conversation entirely free from bad language without detracting from realism, and also ensures that bedroom doors remain closed, never betraying her characters’ privacy. I like, too, that even when people are caricatured - Mungo is delightfully camp and clearly gay; Archie’s wife Camilla a much-loved grandmother who delights in being with small children - they are still warm and likeable.

And then there’s James. He’s a rather pompous would-be writer, also living in the neighbourhood doing ‘research’ and sending lengthy emails to his wife. I found him slightly irritating at first, but gradually realised what a cleverly crafted character he is, giving a little satirical humour to a book which could otherwise feel quite serious throughout.

All in all, I enjoyed this book very much. Recommended to anyone who has enjoyed her work previously, or who likes thoughtful women's fiction.

Many thanks to the publishers for sending it to TheBookbag.

For another good book by the same author, I would recommend The Golden Cup; a similarly warm character-based book is Evening Class by Maeve Binchy

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Buy Indian Summer by Marcia Willett at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Indian Summer by Marcia Willett at


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