The Summer of Secrets by Sarah Jasmon
Published in 2015 by Black Swan
My copy: Library
The summer the Dovers move in next door, sixteen-year-old Helen’s lonely world is at once a more thrilling place. She is infatuated with the bohemian family, especially the petulant and charming daughter Victoria.
As the long, hot days stretch out in front of them, Helen and Victoria grow inseparable. But when a stranger appears, Helen begins to question whether the secretive Dover family are really what they seem.
It’s the kind of summer when anything seems possible . . .
Until something goes wrong.
I picked this up in the library on a whim, as I liked the sound of the book from the blurb. Helen lives with her dad, who is a bit of a hopeless drunk, after her domineering mother moved out. It is the summer holidays and she is fed up and friendless – until the Dover family moves in along the canal. The family is wild, carefree and mysterious, so it is no surprise that Helen is desperate to spend time with them and alleviate her own boredom and loneliness.
The book is set mainly in the early 1980s, but there are some short sections, narrated by Helen in the first person, that are set in 2013, so we know Helen lost touch with the Dover family and has never heard from them again, and that something terrible happened that summer that tore Helen apart.
Back in the 80s we find out a bit more about the Dovers, and Helen is completely mesmerised by the family and the way in which they live. She tried to find out more about them but they are quite a mysterious bunch – particularly mother Alice who lives in her own world. Victoria is the family member she befriends as they are similar ages, although are chalk and cheese in terms of personality. Victoria is actually pretty unpleasant to Helen and it’s hard to see why Helen likes her, but it is as if she is lured in by the whole package, rather than just Victoria.
This book is actually a bit of a slow burner, and not really very much seems to happen during the long summer, and there are lots of sections about Helen’s dad’s boat which didn’t really interest me. There is the feeling that the whole novel is leading up to some big disaster … which is actually the case – and I was desperate to find out what was going to happen.
However when the book reached its climax I was a bit disappointed. It wasn’t handled very well I didn’t think, and it just didn’t live up to the expectations I had of it.
Overall this is a really well written book and I did like parts of it. The Dover family were intriguing, and I could understand Helen’s fascination with them. But the grand finale of the book didn’t quite work for me, and I did feel it was a bit boring in parts too.