Summer of '76 by Isabel Ashdown

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Summer of '76 by Isabel Ashdown

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An engrossing read which captures what it was really like that summer - the culture, the heat AND the secrets which one particular group of people were not too keen to share. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: July 2013
Publisher: Myriad Editions
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1908434333

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1976 was a blisteringly hot summer. People celebrated when it eventually did rain and at one point it was so hot that Big Ben stopped working. It would be the summer that Luke Wolff turned eighteen and he planned on leaving the Isle of White and going to poly in Brighton. He had a job at the holiday camp, which was hard work but there was a great social life too and even the possibility of romance. His parents were happy to let him have his independence - after all, he was a sensible, well-balanced young man - and they were rather preoccupied with their own problems. Looking in, you'd have thought that the Wolffs were the ideal family: from the inside, there were obviously one or two cracks.

There had been rumours about 'the parties' for a while. They were run by a very sociable couple and amongst a certain segment of local society invitations were highly sought after - and being dropped was social oblivion. Attendees were remarkably coy about exactly what went on at the parties - which probably fuelled the rumours even more. Luke only gradually becomes aware that the parties were anything more than a convivial gathering - he and best friend Martin had more important things to worry about.

We've noticed before that Isabel Ashdown has her finger on the pulse of adolescent/adult relationships and particularly on the way that young people interact with each other. I often felt as though I was eavesdropping as she picked up on the nuances of relationships, how they ebb and flow and how even the best of friendships can have a fallow period. She's great too on how families interact - that volatile mixture of openness and deep secrets, honesty and dishonesty. I loved the relationship which Luke had with his grandmother - including the occasional moan about how little she saw of her son!

At the back of the book, you'll find a book group guide. Please don't read the notes before you've read the book as there's a considerable spoiler in there. You might well wonder if there's a particular truth behind what's happening but much of the pleasure of the book is that you realise what has happened at much the same speed as Luke does. And it is a good story. It's thought-provoking. Having a reasonable idea of what had happened I had my disgust ready - I knew what was right and what was wrong, after all - but I found myself prevaricating after I knew the facts. See what you think!

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

For more from that hottest of summers, we can recommend Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell. We also have a review of Ashdown's Hurry Up And Wait.

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Buy Summer of '76 by Isabel Ashdown at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Summer of '76 by Isabel Ashdown at


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