Judith Kinghorn’s beautifully-written and evocative debut novel The Last Summer was one of my favourite reads of 2012. Which might help to explain why, on the eve of her second novel coming out, I’m only now getting around to trying to do it justice in a review.
The Last Summer has been marketed as a book that viewers of Downton Abbey would enjoy. I can understand why, given that it opens in the country estate of Deyning Park in 1914, the year in which the first series of Downton Abbey ends, and involves a love affair between two people from different social classes. But if, like me, you were one of the few people who didn’t enjoy the show and switched off at the beginning of its second series, please don’t let that be the reason you miss out on what is a wonderfully rewarding read in itself.
What I particularly enjoyed about The Last Summer is how much depth there is to the story. Clarissa, the heroine, is on the cusp of adulthood and about to embark upon her first real love affair: “I was almost seventeen when the spell of my childhood was broken”. But the world she inhabits is also about to undergo a profound transformation: “the vibration of change was upon us, and I sensed a shift: a realignment of my trajectory. It was the beginning of summer and, unbeknownst to any of us then, the end of a belle époque.” Read more