Summer Of 76
I’ve seen a few comments online saying that Isabel Ashdown seems to have brought about a summer heatwave through the sheer power of her book ‘Summer of ‘76’ which recreates the hot summer of 1976. Well, I read the book just before the current heatwave started and I have to say that it made me believe there was intense sunshine and an impending drought in the outside world even when it was actually raining and unseasonally chilly.
The heatwave itself is an important plot factor in the novel. Everyone is just a bit wearier, a bit tetchier and a bit more likely to fly off the handle than they might have been otherwise. This adds a feeling of edginess to the story which is very effective.
We start the story with two of the main characters back in 1971 and then move forward to 1976 and follow the story of Luke, his parents Joanna and Richard and little sister Kitty from there. As the story starts the heatwave is just beginning to make its presence felt and as the action goes on we see both the heat and the family tensions being cranked up.
The prologue hints at one of the issues that will becoming increasingly important as the story goes on. It takes the reader into the story well because it’s obvious from the start that there is a pretty big secret that is going to surface in the course of the novel.
Set on the Isle of Wight, the novel makes good use of location. The sea, the beach, the holiday camp and the surroundings generally are pivotal to the story. But there is also a feeling of the claustrophobia and isolation of living on an island and wanting to escape as Luke does throughout the story.
I loved all the characters in this book, even the ones who were largely unsympathetic, but I think my favourites were probably Luke’s sister Kitty (an expertly drawn portrayal of a young child), his old friend Martin, his new friend Gordon, and his Gran.
As well as exploring the issues of a particular family, this novel also considers the nature of family itself and comes to some intriguing conclusions that finish the novel in a satisfying way.
This is a fabulous read and I highly recommend it.
Many thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book.
You can find out more and buy a copy here.