This is almost too obvious – If you’re anxious for summer and want a read that takes you right into those bright days and balmy nights, what makes more sense than taking up a book titled Summer? Nothing.
Edith Wharton is a master of words, and it shocks/depresses me to hear that many so-called literature aficionados have never even heard of her. If you don’t know her, YOU MUST. She wrote some of America’s proudest novels, including Ethan Frome, Glimpses of the Moon, Age of Innocence, House of Mirth, and, of course, Summer. She lived and wrote in the Golden Age of America – the 1920s and onward, through Prohibition, the women’s rights debate, and WWII. However, her themes rest less on the outer world and more on the inner world – on the heart and all its intricacies.
Okay, so maybe I have a bit of a literary crush on Wharton. However, she was an amazing writer and has this way with description that is so compelling it gives me goosebumps. Reading her books is like taking a step into another world, a world of past times that seems so real that stepping out of it is disorienting. This may sound cheesy, but Wharton’s words are past merely story-telling; they touch the heart.
Summer is a tale of community, love, and heartbreak, and the changes that can occur during the summer season – both to the landscape and to the spirit.
It was the beginning of a June afternoon. The springlike transparent sky shed a rain of silver sunshine on the roofs of the village, and on the pastures and larchwoods surrounding it. A little wind moved among the round white clouds on the shoulders of the hills, driving their shadows across the fields and down the grassy road that takes the name of street when it passes through North Dormer.
Now, don’t be fooled. This is not the type of whimsical, summery book in the way The Wind in the Willows is a book that captures the spirit of spring. It is not a happy book (though how could a book about summer be unhappy, right?) and it is not for children and adults alike. It is heavy, but well-worth the weight on your shoulders.
Replete with fantastic description, it is impossible not to be pulled into Charity Royall’s story; you feel what she feels so deeply that by the end you almost believe that you went through the very trials she did. I cannot even begin to summarize the plot for you – the complexities lie in the idiosyncrasies of the characters, the charming/suffocating nature of the tiny mountain town of North Dormer, and the way the characters relate to each other.
She had always thought of love as something confused and furtive, and he made it as bright and open as the summer air.
Often referred to as the “hot counterpart” to Wharton’s earlier novella, Ethan Frome, Summer captures the spirit of unrest and change that inevitably comes with the hot months. Even though it is not a lighthearted, jocular novel, it is still well-worth a read. And despite it’s heavy subject matter, it is charmed with poignancy and has a redemptive enough ending to make all the tears worth it by the last page.