Monday, 23 February 2015

Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye

By Vanessa Lafaye
Published by Orion Publishing Group (1 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1409155379

Publisher's description
Horrifying and beautiful, Summertime is a fictionalised account of one of the most devastating natural disasters in US history.

Tens of thousands of black and white men scarred by their experiences of war in Europe return home to find themselves abandoned to destitution by the US government.

The tiny, segregated community of Heron Key is suddenly overwhelmed by broken, disturbed men with new ideas about racial equality and nothing left to lose.

Tensions flare when a black veteran is accused of committing the most heinous crime of all against a white resident's wife.

And not far off the strongest and more intense hurricane American has ever witnessed is gaining force.

My verdict
Summertime is a beautifully written novel of racial segregation, the tragedy of war, broken war veterans and the beating of a white married woman in Florida in the 1930s.

It has well-developed memorable characters, vivid descriptions of life in the Florida Keys and ample historical background. You can feel the racial tension, with scenes of violence and oppression, and the despair and frustration of the veterans living in poverty.

The book begins with the community preparing for the annual Fourth of July beach barbecue, which all goes horribly wrong when the angry veterans arrive and a local white woman is found beaten and left for dead.  The pace of the writing changes as the ferocious hurricane arrives, capturing the terror of those caught in the middle of the damage and devastation. 

The whole community is struck by tragedy - and the sad and moving ending reveals how the survivors' lives will never be the same again.

I could picture the scenes as they panned out - always a sign of a well-written book for me.  It's an excellent debut novel.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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