A little later than planned (because I have been bashing my way through a structural rewrite of my book!), a review of Summer People by Julie Cohen.
Cohen’s Together is one of my all-time favourite books. Not only is the writing sublime and the love story breathtaking, but the structure is incredible. The story is told backwards, which – for a love story with a jaw-dropping twist – is the writerly equivalent of tight-rope walking on a unicycle while standing on your head.
So I was already excited for the release of Summer People. Then I found out it has bi rep… So basically it bypassed my entire TBR pile the second it crashed through the letterbox.
Despite the ‘Summer’ in the title (and the cover), this book isn’t a light, summery read. It’s intense, gripping and moving.
The story takes place on Unity Island, off the coast of Maine, and the location is an important character in its own right.
Vee is a returning native, who left the island long ago, hence she returns with the tourists – the ‘Summer People’ and finds that she doesn’t quite belong in either camp anymore.
For one thing, there’s the ongoing feud with her oldest friend, Sterling, who felt abandoned by Vee’s departure. And then there’s his wife, the irresistible Rachel.
The book has a very intense and claustrophobic feel, and yet there’s room for the evocative writing that, in my view, sets Julie Cohen apart.
These characters were flawed and selfish at times, but honestly and realistically so – they felt nuanced and rang utterly true to me.
Cohen never takes the easy way out and there was lots to reflect on here, from the power of secrets to past choices and forbidden love.
All in all, a fantastic read.