Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Book Review: A Certain Summer by Patricia Beard

Pages: 320
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: May 21, 2013
Source: NetGalley
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "It is 1948 at Wauregan, an idyllic island summer community. Helen Wadsworth, whose husband has been declared mysteriously missing on an OSS operation in France, is seeking the truth about his disappearance. But while she waits and hopes, two other men fall in love with her, creating a complicated romantic triangle. In the background of this world of privilege are Helen’s fourteen-year-old son, Jack; Kathleen, the Irish housekeeper who has worked for the Wadsworths for two generations; and a heroic German Shepherd that served in the Pacific theater. The mystique—and the myth—at Wauregan is that “nothing ever changes here,” but that is mined with the traumas of husbands returned from the war, and wives who cannot imagine the horrors they experienced in combat. Scarred by battle, these men longed for their families and their island refuge, only to find themselves emotionally distant, and struggling to reenter society. Part mystery, part love story, and part insider’s view of a rarified, private world, A Certain Summer will resonate with every reader who has ever dreamt of a special summer place."
Wauregan is a beach town that is pretty close to perfection.  The year is 1948 and this sleepy town is a getaway where people leave it all behind for the summer, including the memories of the war.  Helen Wadsworth and her son, Jack, have a house on the island and their housekeeper is accompanying them for a summer of relaxation on the island.  Helen's husband never returned home after the war and has been MIA for a few years; however, Helen is still holding out hope for his return.  All is honkey-dory on the island, except there's someone new.  Her neighbor's grandson returns to the island for some rest and to recover from the war.  He brings along his dog, Max, who also served in the war.  Helen has met him once before, but there's something about him now that attracts her to him, even though she feels he is much too young for her.  There's also Jack's godson and her husband's best friend, Frank, who spends some time with them this summer.  Frank has feelings for Helen, but how can she move on to another man when she is still hoping her husband will return, especially when this man is her husband's best friend? This summer on Wauregan proves to be a life altering summer for both Helen and Jack.  A Certain Summer by Patricia Beard is a moving tale about the importance of that one life changing summer. It also touches on more serious issues, like life after World War II; fans of historical fiction will relish this tale.

Helen is an interesting character in A Certain Summer.  I wouldn't say I was a huge fan of hers, but she was likable nonetheless.  She had a lot to deal with along with most of her friends who were dealing with the aftermath of World War II.  It really impacted their marriages and many of the female characters would spend a lot of time trying to figure out why their husbands had changed or why they act the way they do.  For these females, it was a mystery as to what actually occurred at war and even though the war was over, the emotional and physical scars still remained.  Not many novels deal with this issue from the female's perspective and I found that to be quite interesting.

Since I am a dog lover, I viewed Jack and his connection to the German Shepard, Max, to be one of the best parts of the novel. The sections that focused on Jack really demonstrated how this summer was his coming-of-age tale and what's better than a boy coming of age with a trusty dog as a sidekick? What Max has to go through during the war and afterwards broke my heart, but I loved how both Jack and Max were good for each other.

The romance in A Certain Summer had a bit of the whole love triangle to it, but it didn't bother me too much.  I just wanted Helen to move on past her husband since it has been many years since he's been missing.  There were definitely some swoon-worthy moments in this book, so fans of romance won't be disappointed.

The setting in A Certain Summer is to-die-for. It's definitely my kind of setting.  The island seemed to be perfect; Wauregan is definitely a place I would want to visit.  The simplicity, the carefree feeling, the beach, the boats, the dances, and the fact that most people were barefoot all summer were details that brought the setting to life.  The beautiful setting of Wauregan and the time period of the late forties really made this novel special.

I did have a few minor issues with A Certain Summer.  One being the fact that the point of view jumped around a little between various characters, which sometimes I found to be jarring.  Also, the ending was abrupt. I wanted a bit more and it just kind of left me hanging.  

Other than that, I found A Certain Summer to be wholly captivating.  Fans of historical fiction, especially World War II, will definitely want to put a copy of A Certain Summer in their beach bag this year.  


  1. I find a lot of books these days have that narrative jump around between many different characters, and I think it takes away from the story if not done right. I have found a lot where it is hard to distinguish the characters. This book does sound interesting despite that issue though.

    1. I am finding that is the case lately as well. It definitely was interesting despite that issue, especially if you are a fan of WWII. Thanks for visiting, Andrea!

  2. I love island settings and summery books, and I don't mind love triangles if they're handled well. The jumpy POVs are a pet peeve of mine, though, so I'm not sure whether I'd pick this up. Appreciate hearing your thoughts, though. :)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. I thought the love triangle was handled well overall, but the POVs were a tad jumpy. The setting was SOOO amazing though. Thanks for visiting, Wendy!

  3. I think this book sounds really good. I am glad that it explores what happens with families after the war is over and the men return and how both the men and women have changed. I decided to order a copy for the library after reading your review and I will likely be reading it too :)

    1. I think you would really enjoy this one, Christina, especially since we both have similar interest in adult historical fiction. I am glad you got a copy for your library. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on this one! Thanks for dropping by, Christina!


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