|The Summer House Party by Caro Fraser|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: From a 1930's Summer Party to the darkest depths of WWII, The Summer House Party has a surprising sweep, engaging the reader with compelling characters and an engaging plot filled with secrets and romance.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 512||Date: April 2017|
|Publisher: Head of Zeus|
|External links: Author's website|
In the gloriously hot summer of 1936, a group of people meet at a country house party. Within three years, England will be at war, but for now, time stands still. Dan Ranscombe is clever and good-looking, but he resents the wealth and easy savoir-faire of fellow guest, Paul Latimer. Surely a shrewd girl like Meg Slater would see through that, wouldn't she? And what about Diana, Paul's beautiful sister, Charles Asher, the Jewish outsider, Madeleine, restless and dissatisfied with her role as children's nanny? And artist Henry Haddon, their host, no longer young, but secure in his power as a practised seducer. As these guests gather, none has any inkling the choices they make will have fateful consequences, lasting through the war and beyond. Or that the first unforeseen event will be a shocking death…
Caro Fraser, daughter of Flashman writer George MacDonald Fraser, is a qualified barrister who has been writing novels for over 20 years now – her Caper Court series, set in a fictional set of barristers' chambers, has so far extended over 8 novels, and Fraser has written several stand alone novels over the years as well. The Summer House Party proves to be a fascinating departure, and one that sets up what, if The Summer House Party is any indication, will be an extremely readable trilogy of novels.
The years shortly before World War II are always a fascinating setting for fiction – years filled with hope, excitement and freedom and yet never far away from the looming shadow of impending war and conflict. The freedom and recklessness of wealthy youth fills the majority of the characters here, and whilst in other hands this could prove rather annoying, the dark and brutal shadow of impending danger is ever present in Fraser's writing, no matter how sunny things may be for these characters when the story starts. Fraser writes her youthful cast well – they're not all likeable, but they're vivid, real characters. All are distinct to the reader from first meeting them, and their dialogue flows exceptionally well, the characters written in accurate period dialect, but never veering into the Jolly Hockey Sticks caricature that can often pervade books of this period. Fraser takes them all on journeys that are immensely readable, and the characters grow naturally before the readers eyes, shaped and scarred by both the events that they go through personally and the changing world around them.
Whilst it initially seems that the book may be a gentle black comedy of manners, the sweep of the plot proves to be far grander and truly takes the reader along for the ride – introducing and developing the characters with considerable skill, before heightening the tension and drama to startling effect. The romance, fear and compelling emotional ties are threaded through the book like vines – starting subtly but ensnaring the reader in their grip before too long. There are unanswered questions at the end of the book, but as the start of a series it works very well indeed, and I'm looking forward to jumping a few years and enjoying these characters as they grow and age. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
For further reading I recommend Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave – another wartime novel that has flawed, compelling characters and a story filled with danger and romance.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Summer House Party by Caro Fraser at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Summer House Party by Caro Fraser at Amazon.com.
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