Book Review – Summer Day
I would have been inclined to say ‘Summer Day’ was a bit out of my regular reading comfort zone but as I’m discovering, even from within the IASD writing group of which I’m proud to be a member, there’s enjoyment to be had from almost any genre, you just have to find the right book …
When it comes to the term ‘literary’ there are a few names that spring to mind but having read ‘Summer Day,’ the name Frank Parker can now be added to that list’
Bess, a Welsh Collie sheepdog, is old and ailing. Jack, her owner, has decided it is time to put her down. His young son, Henry, tries to prevent this, causing Jack’s gun to go off injuring Jack. Believing he is responsible for his father’s death, Henry runs away, taking Bess with him. Will this summer day be the last of Bess’s life? Or of Henry’s? Set on a Welsh Border hill farm in 1947, a time and place lacking land-line phones, let alone broadband, the story follows Henry’s desperate attempts to evade capture, and the amateurish efforts of family and neighbours to find him and explain that his father’s injuries are not life-threatening and no-one holds him responsible. Each member of the family has his or her own fears for the future and these influence their behaviour throughout the long sultry day as storm clouds gather. Henry’s older brother, Cecil, wants to have a bigger say in the running of the farm, his mother and his sister, Margery, are preoccupied with planning her forthcoming marriage. His aunts, too, have problems that demand attention. Assorted professionals have their own distorted view of the family and of Henry: the family Doctor, the district nurse, the vicar, the school teacher. Henry, meanwhile, faces an escalating series of setbacks and injuries which lead him to make a near-fatal decision.
By Frank Parker
An expertly crafted village drama, Frank Parker’s ‘Summer Day’ is a charming and delightfully written snapshot of postwar Britain among the rural villages and farming communities in and around the Herefordshire border between England and Wales. Part of this snapshot brings alive the huge social changes that were taking place at the time: the newly elected Labour government’s raising of the school leaving age and the effect that had on local communities where a youngster’s life was pretty much already pre-determined, the changing and conflicting social attitudes of the time, and even a reference to to the spread of mains electricity. Getting back to the main story though, right from the start the reader is drawn into an intense scenario, rewarded by an unexpected and what ‘appears’ to be, a climactic and tragic ending to the first chapter. What follows are the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the events of that short opening chapter, in which the truth gradually emerges surrounding an accident and tragic misunderstanding, during which neighbours and family pull together in the search for Henry, a young boy widely regarded by locals as ‘not quite right in the head.’ Secondary to the main story we learn that there is much more to Henry than most people, even his parents, give him credit for.
Throughout the story we are introduced and return to a variety of characters ranging from the ageing but dedicated village vicar who refuses to give up riding his bicycle, a District Nurse who has helped bring most of the local youth into the world including Henry, and who provides some insight into why Henry is the way he is, and an opinionated Headteacher stuck in his ways to name but a few. Others include Henry’s parents and other family members followed by an assortment of friends and neighbours; often when an author introduces a large number of characters it can become confusing, with the peripheral characters coming across as a bit one-dimensional, but the author has skilfully breathed life and substance into every last one, each by way of their own story and circumstances playing their part in the bigger picture and driving the story forward, and although I was completely hooked on the unfolding drama of the search for Henry, part of what really brought this story to life were these other character’s backdrop stories, many of which could feasibly warrent a book or short story in their own right.
Elements of the characters, the vivid depictions of rural everyday life, and the time period put me in mind of Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider with Rosie.’ Sadly books such as this don’t appear as often as they once did, possibly because of the passage of time and the inevitably diminishing pool of writers with sufficient personal experience to draw on.
An unexpected literary gem and as fine and enjoyable a book as I’ve read all year.
* Quite separate from the above review as it’s really nothing to do with the story and quality of the writing, I have only two minor concerns about this book. One, that I’m not overly keen on the cover; even though the story is reflective of a past era, I don’t believe the dated look of the cover really does the story justice (just my opinion). My second concern is the Amazon description – whilst I think a good book blurb is essential, this particular one I think gives a little too much away, the sort of description that if a review were to reveal the same level of detail (if it hadn’t already been revealed in the blurb might) might well be termed as being full of spoilers … other than these minor asides, a superb story impossible to find fault with.
More about the author:
Frank is a retired Engineer. He spent most of his working life in England where he was employed by UK based multi-national companies. He always wanted to write but has only found the freedom to do so since retiring to Ireland in October 2006. He lives with Freda, his wife since 1963, in Stradbally, County Laois. In addition to the above, Frank Parker is an active and valued contributor to the IASD FB group. ( see also: http://www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com )
See Frank Parker’s Amazon Author page for the author’s full catalogue of work