Black Dog Summer by Miranda Sherry

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Black Dog Summer by Miranda Sherry

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Stephen Leach
Reviewed by Stephen Leach
Summary: After her mother's brutal murder, Gigi is taken in by her aunt Adele and her family. A moving slow burner set in South Africa.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 312 Date: July 2014
Publisher: Head of Zeus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781781859582

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Yesterday, Sally was living in a rambling farmstead with her teenage daughter Gigi. Now Sally is dead, murdered, and Gigi is alone in the world.

But Sally cannot die. She lingers unseen in her daughter’s shadow. When Gigi moves in with her aunt’s family, Sally comes too. When Gigi’s trauma stirs up long-buried secrets, Sally watches helplessly as the family begins to unravel.

I'm not often one for slow burners. Black Dog Summer is a story that develops very slowly, and while I occasionally had moments of minor frustration wishing the story would move along a little more quickly, there are elements of the book that keep you hooked. I enjoyed Miranda Sherry’s writing style and ultimately found it a fairly easy read.

We follow Sally for almost all of the story as she drifts from place to place, attaching herself to the ‘threads’ of her family’s story. I loved these sequences: they worked well as a framing device around the action, and provided a secondary viewpoint on the characters. Sherry uses the South African setting well in these scenes, painting images that come alive in the reader’s mind.

Right from the start it’s obvious things aren’t right between Adele and her husband Liam, and Sherry waits a while before revealing what exactly happened between the adults to make things so fraught. It’s a relatable backstory and the history between them is genuinely heartfelt, and I found myself hoping that by the end everything would be resolved.

My opinions on the characters changed a lot over the course of the book, and one in particular became a lot more sympathetic as the story progressed. That said, I felt that some of them were a little underdeveloped and I did still find myself wishing we could have gotten to know a couple of them a little better. In a way, it’s this fact that prevents the book from ever reaching any sort of emotional high: the climax of the novel felt a little underwhelming.

Overall I’m certainly coming down on the favourable side for Black Dog Summer. I definitely enjoyed it and would say it’s worth a read, but at the same time I don’t think it’s one that will stick in the mind for long. One to borrow for sure.

For a similar read, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is the obvious comparison that a lot of people have been making, as it deals with the similar theme of someone watching over their family after their death. You might also like Ordinary Hazards by Anna Bruno.

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Buy Black Dog Summer by Miranda Sherry at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Black Dog Summer by Miranda Sherry at


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