Plot: Helen was expecting a summer of being alone. When a new family move close to her and insert themselves in Helen’s life, she can’t imagine the holidays without them. But there is a mystery surrounding this family, one Helen can’t figure out. All she knows is that they are moving on by the time the holidays end.
When they vanish, however, the mystery only deepens. Helen must come to terms with that eventful summer and learn how to move on from it. But letting go of the past is never that easy, especially not when it comes back around.
Quote: `Each day followed the next, with no more interruption to their tempo than there was to the run of unbroken sunshine.`
Opinion: For the first two-thirds of this novel, I wasn’t sold. It is the first novel published by Sarah Jasmon; her writing known for short stories and poetry up until now. The characterisation lacked development and the plot felt predictable. The changing narration – especially in quick succession – in the opening chapters meant it took a while to be engrossed by the world.
The family’s disappearance at the end of the summer holidays is a given from the opening. To me, it felt as if the plot was slow and not moving along because this outcome is already known. The stand-alone chapters set in `modern times` in a first person narration rather than a third jarred the story and detached the reading, particularly as it was only one chapter before returning to the past.
The characterisation felt weak for the majority of the book. Helen’s in particular – she had no backbone to stand up for herself regardless of what was being thrown her way and it made her appear weak. She had fanciful notions towards both men in the book (other than her father) despite one being the uncle of her friends. There was nothing that made you connect with Helen’s character on a personal level.
But – and there is a big but here – it worked. In the last third of the book, Jasmon turned up the tension to such a high level I couldn’t put it down. Answers were withheld and it was obvious there was more to it than the family packing up and leaving – I just couldn’t figure out what. Helen’s character was effective – that weakness at the beginning is partly responsible for events and her inability to let go of the past – even right at the end of the book – makes you realise she was a very lonely teenager who needed to cling to that friendship because it was all she had.
I wasn’t sure on this book for the majority of it. As it turns out, it is the first thing in a long while that has made me emotional while reading. Jasmon knew precisely what she was doing the whole way through and created a suspense-filled, coming of age story that shows how deep a bond of friendship can run. Definitely a recommendation!