A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover, 409 pages, 2008

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: I liked Hilderbrand’s novel Barefoot.

Synopsis: Claire is a woman looking for something to do after her career as a professional glass-blower ended when she allowed herself to get swept up in her creative process and a tragedy occurred. Thinking the answer might lie in charity work, she agrees to chair the committee for Nantucket’s Children Summer Gala, a position offered to her partly because her high school sweetheart happens to have been international rock star Max West, and the committee would like him to play for free. But her ‘perfect life’ – the husband, four kids, the prestige from her former creative work – is slowly unravelling as she turns to unexpected sources, wondering what she has missed out on in life, and determined to find out…

Why you should read this book: If you like character-based books that still have a lot going on (think personal crises, kids, husbands, affairs, past loves, tragedies from the past resurfacing), A Summer Affair will definitely appeal to you. Claire is a great character, a very strong woman who happens to have her moments of weakness. And, like many women, she comes to question how much of her life she’s living for other people, and decides to indulge herself a little. She faces a lot of conflicts and challenges, between trying to organize a gala in a town where everyone knows each other (and subsequently, some of them hate each other), dealing with her family while feeling like she has no support from her husband, and debating the possibility of reviving her career in glass blowing (something Hilderbrand describes with a beauty that makes you wish you could actually see these pieces). Recommended for anyone who wants to get lost in the island life of Nantucket with a bunch of characters that are sure to captivate you.

Why you should avoid this book: While pretty engrossing for what many might consider to be a ‘fluff read,’ a lot of the added interest is from – surprise – an affair, as the title suggests, which can make some of the characters hard to like at times. Of course, that’s why it’s sometimes fun to read about things rather than live them.

Opening paragraph:

The guilt was like a clump of tar in her hair, warm and sticky, impossible to remove. The more she fingered it, the worse things got. Tar gummed her hands; she tried water but it formed a slick, milky film. She needed scissors, turpentine.

Fabulous quotes:

‘It’s not that I didn’t believe it,’ Lock said. ‘It’s just that, I don’t know…he’s so famous.’
‘But he wasn’t then,’ Claire said. ‘Back then, he was just a kid, like the rest of us.’
‘The question is,’ Lock said, ‘can we get him?’
‘I can try.’
‘For free?’
Claire sipped her wine. ‘I can try.’
Lock leaned toward her. His eyes were bright. He had very kind eyes, Claire thought. Very kind or very sad.

Still, Gavin was left in a state of disgrace, and he was unhirable. His parents were at their wits’ end. Gavin lived at home that winter, jobless, listening to mournful jazz and spending his parents’ money on finely tailored clothes that, as far as he could tell, he would never again have a reason to wear. In the summer, he trailed his parents to Nantucket, and in the fall they suggested he stay and try to make his own way. Either Gavin’s parents thought the sea air and cold, gray winter would be fortifying for his character, or they simply wanted him banished, tucked away on an island where they didn’t have to deal with him in the day-to-day.

Also recommended: The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes; Case Histories by Kate Atkinson; The Fidelity Files by Jessica Brody.

Also by this author: Barefoot; The Love Season; The Blue Bistro; Summer People; Nantucket Nights; The Beach Club.

Fun tidbit: Hilderbrand travelled extensively before setting in Nantucket, where all of her novels are set.

Would I read more by this author? I’ll read future books, but might lack the time to go back to previous novels.

&#169 Lisa Yanaky 2003-2008

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