Swallowtail Summer by Erica James
Publishing Date: 18th April 2019
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 386
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
A captivating story about friendship, making changes, and learning to live life to the fullest from SUNDAY TIMES bestseller Erica James.
They thought they were friends for life – until one summer, everything changed . . .
Linston End on the Norfolk Broads has been the holiday home to three families for many years. The memories of their time there are ingrained in their hearts: picnics on the river, gin and tonics in the pavilion at dusk, hours spent seeking out the local swallowtail butterflies. Everyone together.
But widower Alastair has been faced with a few of life’s surprises recently. Now, he is about to shock his circle of friends with the decisions he has made – and the changes it will mean for them all. For some, it feels like the end. For others, it might just be the beginning . . .
“Swallowtail Summer” is a story about three men who have been friends from their schooldays, and about their families. One of them, Alastair, owns a beautiful house in Norfolk, where the whole group – later with the wives and then with the offspring – used to spent every summer, enjoying their holidays and sometimes searching for the elusive swallowtail butterflies. They are all happily settled into their lives and enjoy them, until Alastair’s wife Orla dies, and he goes travelling. After his return, he has some news for his friends, that turns out to be rather shocking for them, and that will affect them all.
The setting was absolutely beautiful, the picturesque Norfolk Broads vividly and colourfully described. The house that was the centre of the story was incredibly welcoming. I had, though, problems to get into the book, the beginning was really heavy for me. It was probably because of the great number of characters introduced to us and I couldn’t keep track who is who and who belongs to whom and what has happened, often feeling confused about their relationships. However, later, it starts to fit and after I’ve worked out who, why and what, I felt myself really invested in the story – it is really worth persevering, as then we are more likely to understand them, their decisions and motivations.
Nevertheless, I’ve started to feel anxious to be honest, because, well, I haven’t warmed to the characters, and I was scared that it’s going to destroy the whole reading experience for me. I couldn’t, for example, really understand why the guys, and then their families, put Alastair’s on a pedestal, I found it a bit strange, to be honest, I mean, they were all adults but they still behaved like in their youth. What made him so special? Also, I can’t imagine any of my friends – best friends – behaving like this should I tell them such news as Alastair – well, it’s my decision, right? However, they had strength to them and their personalities were very well captured, they all were flawed and had their own problems and secrets.
“Swallowtail Summer” was a story with friendship in its centre, loyalty and with a depth to it, written in a very lyrical way, providing a very accurate and sharp look at the ways people work, how they see what they want to see, how they react at truth. It was rather a sad read, or maybe I should say a very realistic one, as reality is a bitch, we know this only too well. There was never a dull moment, and while I might have not understand some of the actions of the characters, I really appreciated all the emotions that were released after Alastair’s announcement. I could never be sure where the story would lead and the few skeletons that came out of the closets were really surprising. It is a great picture of characters’ interactions, really exploring different group dynamics, showing the effect of Alastair’s news, how it affected them all and how they tried to work it for themselves, and making you also wonder. A story that had a substance to it. Recommended!
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