Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "Physician Bess Codman has returned to her family's Nantucket compound, Cliff House, for the first time in four years. Her great-grandparents built Cliff House almost a century before, but due to erosion, the once-grand home will soon fall into the sea. Though she s purposefully avoided the island, Bess must now pack up the house and deal with her mother, a notorious town rabble-rouser, who refuses to leave. The Book of Summer unravels the power and secrets of Cliff House as told through the voices of Ruby Packard, a bright-eyed and idealistic newlywed on the eve of WWII, the home's definitive guestbook, and Bess herself. Bess's grandmother always said it was a house of women, and by the very last day of the very last summer at Cliff House, Bess will understand the truth of her grandmother's words in ways she never contemplated."
Dr. Bess Codman is going through a really, really bad divorce. She returns to Sconset, Nantucket at her father's request to help get her mother, Cissy, out of their beach house. Cliff House, which at one time was a beautiful mansion on the bluff, is now, essentially, falling into the sea due to erosion. Cissy needs to bid the house farewell, but she can't seem to as it has been in her family for generations. She wants to find a way to save the house. While trying to pack up the place, Bess comes across The Book of Summer, which is the guestbook that her great-grandmother started to highlight each summer at Cliff House. Bess is totally absorbed by her grandmother and great-grandmother's tales along with other guests of the house. Flashbacks to her grandmother, Ruby, who loved Cliff House tremendously, fill in the gaps of their family history along with highlighting some family secrets. Michelle Gable's The Book of Summer is a multi-generational saga that has it all if you enjoy how history and the present can intertwine to reveal an interesting story.
Bess' divorce is literally a nightmare in The Book of Summer. Seriously. Her husband is a monster and where better than to seek refuge and get her ducks in a row than at her family's beautiful beach home on Nantucket. Except there's one problem. The house is slowly slipping into the sea and while most people would cut their losses, Cissy is determined to save the house. Bess is here to talk some sense into her mother, but while here, she sort of delves into her family's past when perusing The Book of Summer. She also has a lot of personal things to sort out and the reemergence of her high school boyfriend also complicates matters.
Cissy is quite the character in The Book of Summer. She's fierce, she's stubborn, and she's a force of nature. While she isn't always practical, you have to appreciate her determination. I found myself really interested in her back story, which is eventually revealed in the novel's flashbacks.
The character that I was really drawn to in The Book of Summer was Cissy's mother, Ruby, whose story we learn about through not only the entries in The Book of Summer, but also flashbacks to the time surrounding WWII. I adored Ruby and whenever her narrative was over, I found myself wishing it could go back to it. Ruby's story not only highlights female strength during difficult times, but it also provides a lot of insight into what Bess' family endured during WWII and the secrets they held onto for many years.
The setting of Nantucket was perfect for The Book of Summer and the idea of gorgeous homes being destroyed due to erosion is based on real-life events on Nantucket. I especially loved the flashbacks to WWII and the home in its heyday. The parties on the lawn, the big bands, the gorgeous views, and the simple beauty of a gorgeous summer day is captured expertly by Gable.
If you enjoy historical beach reads that focus on family, you'll love The Book of Summer. I especially appreciated how the past intertwined with the present and the message of female strength throughout the novel. I definitely recommend this one!