Saturday, 2 August 2014

The Greengage Summer - Rumer Godden

Product DetailsWritten back in the 1950s, this book must have improved with age, as I was very taken with the story, the style and the characters.  I picked it up somewhere for £1 and my copy was indeed published way back in 1958 - but it is still in print now, and a paperback and kindle version is available.

When a (nearly) single Mother decided that she and the five children should go and stay for the Summer in a small hotel in the middle of France, she was not to know that an insect bite would mean that she would be incapacitated in hospital for much of that time, and that her children would be mostly looking after themselves in that small hotel.  The story is told by Cecil, the second eldest child, at thirteen a girl on the brink of puberty.  The oldest child, Joss is two years older, but when she catches the eye of Eliot, an Englishman frequenting the hotel and sleeping with one of the owners, the glorious summer turns into something else altogether.  Mother has asked Eliot to look out for her brood, and he does that - but only at his own convenience.  He's charismatic, the children love him, but there is something not quite right that they cannot put a finger on.  It is quite a way through the book before we find out what that "not quite right" thing is.  But no matter, Rumer Godden's writing style means that you understand exactly how each of these five children feel, and how each of them feels differently from the others, even though for most of the time four of them think he is lovely, and one of them falls in love with him.   You  can "feel" France;  you can feel the summer sunshine, you can also feel the tension amongst the hotel staff - for many different reasons.  You may remember the first time you ever drank too much alcohol;  for the downing of too many glasses of it made Joss very drunk indeed. You may recall the first time you fell in love; you may recall the first time you realised that sometimes grownups tell lies - and those lies are not nice at all.  And of course, you will find out that grownups are not always who they appear to be.  A lovely Summery read, a mystery, a crime and more.  Go on, read it before Summer ends!