The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan
Published 5th May 2016 by Penguin BooksTrade paperback (12.99), E-book (7.99) and Audio (£12.00)
My thanks to the publisher who sent me a review copy.
After ten years in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, Jasper Curtis returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters. Lizzie does not know who she's letting into her home: the brother she grew up loving or the monster he became.
Teenage Katie distrusts this strange man in their home but eleven-year-old Joanne is just intrigued by her new uncle. Jasper says he's all done with trouble, but in a forgotten prairie town that knows no forgiveness, it does not take long for trouble to arrive at their door...
Upon first glancing at this cover I had somehow assumed that it would be a light hearted story with the feel of Summer about it. I was right about one of those points. You can feel summer in this book, you can feel the cloying and stifling heat of summer days. From the very first line I was captivated.
Beautifully descriptive and extremely well written, I loved this authors style of writing. Set in a prairie town in Texas, you really get a sense of the place from the first page. Straight away you feel as if you are sitting on that particular porch of that house, watching the story unfold.
Lizzie lives in her mothers old house with her Daughters, Katie and Joanne. This story is about the Summer that Lizzie's brother Jasper is released with prison and returns to live with them in the family home. They story is about what happened then and what happens now. At first we don't know why Jasper went to prison. It takes a while to find out, it is kind of pieced together bit by bit, with little bits being dropped into the story. This very cleverly helped to build the suspense. I would say this is about whether we can have acceptance and tolerance and it also about being a social outcast and whether or not it is possible to forgive.
This story is told from the viewpoints of several of the characters, but the characters are all so troubled and tense when Jasper is around. This tension builds up and adds to the plot, it is palpable as you flick from page to page.
I adored the Character of Joanne, she is only eleven. She adds a childlike innocence to the whole story. At that age our opinions are not as black and white as an adults.
If there was one thing I would say I didn't like and that was the lack of Chapters, I would have preferred them but I am not sure if this was intentionally done to add to the sense of endless summer days rolling on.
Here we have a book that is descriptive, atmospheric and really quite beautifully written. It has a touch of the brutal about it, human nature and human behaviour, good and evil, innocent and guilty, right and wrong.
I would recommend this book highly, I thought it was a superb piece of writing and a brilliant first novel, and I also found it original.
About the Author:
Vanessa Ronan was born in Houston and in her 28 years has lived in Texas, Mexico, New York, Edinburgh, and Dublin, where she now lives with her Irish husband. Among other things, she has been a dancer, a PA, a barmaid, a literature student, a dance teacher, and now, a writer. Home-schooled by her literature teacher parents, Vanessa began writing as soon as she learnt the alphabet. The Last Days of Summer is her first novel.
Penguin website Book page: https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/289001/the-last-days-of-summer/
Amazon pre-order and purchase page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B017OMWR70/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14339604.Vanessa_Ronan