All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Last Summer – Kylie Ladd + SIGNED Giveaway!

on August 3, 2011

Rory Buchanan had it all. Captain of his local cricket club, he was the centre of it and of many people’s lives. The life of the party, the glue that held it all together. He had a good marriage with a wonderful wife and two sons. A successful business and a beautiful house. His friends and family idolized him.

When Rory dies at cricket training from an aneurysm of the aorta, the people left behind in his life are devastated. His sister and wife struggle to make sense of it. His friends from the team struggle without his leadership and drive, his enthusiasm for the game. In several cases he was why they were there, why they were still playing. And this larger than life character is now gone, leaving behind a group of people who are struggling with his loss and unsure of how to go on, which direction to go in.

Last Summer is told from nine different perspectives – the people who were closest to Rory and who are most affected by his death. There’s Nick, Pete, Joe and James – all members of the same cricket club, and their wives, Laine, Trinity, Kelly (also Rory’s sister) and Anita as well Rory’s widow Colleen, taking turns at the narrative. They are all vastly different people and their ways of dealing with the grief, or in the case of some, the grief of others, are all different as well.

Last Summer is an observation of family life. Of tragedy. And everything that comes in between. Given its geographical setting and the revolving narrative, comparisons to The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas were inevitable. I read The Slap back in April for Aussie Author Month and although I didn’t exactly like it, or relate to it, I thought it was definitely an interesting and powerful piece of writing. So is Last Summer. But it also has the added bonus of being a much more enjoyable and accessible read. And I could relate to the characters a good deal more easily.

The book opens with one of the better ‘hook lines’ I’ve come across in recent times… “They were making love when Rory died” and from that point on, putting this book down is not an option. The characters are all refreshingly regular, the sort of people you might work with, or live next door to. Some are more sympathetic than others but one of the interesting features of this book is the way that Ladd manages to slowly shift the way you feel about certain characters as the book progresses. Uptight and unlikable characters suddenly grow and change and become people in which you can identify with.

What really strikes me about this novel, is the incredible portrayal of family dynamics. Ladd is a psychologist who will tell anyone that asks that she’s a voyeur…she likes to watch people. And that shines through in her writing. The families in this novel differ, but the one thing that remains constant is the accuracy with which they appear on the page – from married characters Pete and Trinity, dealing with Trinity’s issue of being adopted and whether or not to track down her biological mother and their rebellious teenage daughter, to Rory’s grieving widow Colleen, struggling to make a life for herself and her boys after the devastating death and some unexpected news that rocks her world.

There’s a simplicity in this story that is beautiful – the narrative is uncomplicated and smooth flowing, despite the different changes in view. The families and marital relationships are easily kept straight, something that contributes to the fast pace at which you can get through this novel! At its core it’s about a group of people grieving the loss of someone in his prime, a man they admired and loved and how that one thing ripples through their lives, no matter how differing those lives are. Not everything they do revolves around the loss but their acts and words are touched by it and it creates divisions, fractions within a group that were perhaps not there before, or too well hidden. Without Rory it seems,  people see fit to act differently – to leave behind the normal, the mundane of the previous life, the life that contained him. It’s like a wake up call to make changes, to grasp what is in front of you because tomorrow it (or you) may not be around to take the opportunity.

Last Summer is set in Melbourne, a city where I have lived (on the periphery) for the last 5 years now. One of my favourite things in fiction is reading a novel where the setting is familiar, where I can feel a connection to the location. I am not well traveled, so this doesn’t happen to me too often! I don’t live where the characters live but that essence of the city, the place that is known to me and understood, is still there. To me this book is Melbourne in summer – cricket games, and bbq’s, kids at the house that has a pool, New Years Eve parties, friendships and families.

The sophomore novel is always an interesting one, especially when you’ve really enjoyed an author’s debut. Last Summer ensures that the success and crafty writing of After The Fall was no fluke. If you are interested in family relationships and evolving dynamics of friendship then Last Summer is definitely a book you should be reading!

7/10

Book #111 of 2011

Giveaway of a SIGNED copy of Last Summer

Like to read Last Summer?

Kylie Ladd recently did an author talk and signing at my local library – one of a few events lately that have been organised by a local bookseller. I was supposed to go but was struck down with illness the day before so I missed out! However Kylie did sign two books for me – a personal copy and a copy to also give away to one lucky reader on my blog! So all you need to do is fill out the form for a chance to win! The giveaway is open internationally and you don’t have to follow my blog, twitter it, facebook it, write it in the sky with an aeroplane or otherwise jump through flaming hoops to win!


One response to “Last Summer – Kylie Ladd + SIGNED Giveaway!

  1. […] book review blogs, or stalk goodreads, might agree with! If you have time, pop over and enter my giveaway – a copy of Australian author Kylie Ladd’s second novel, Last Summer. It’s open […]

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