Book Review: The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn

Clarissa is almost seventeen when the spell of her childhood is broken. It is 1914, the beginning of a blissful golden summer- and the end of an era.
Deyning Park is in it's heyday, the gardens filled with the scents of roses and lavender, the colours of the earth rich and vibrant, the large country house filled with the laughter and excitement of privileged youth preparing for a weekend party. When Clarissa meets Tom Cuthbert, home from university and staying with his mother, the housekeeper, she is dazzled. Tom is handsome and enigmatic; he is also an outsider. Ambitious, clever, his sights set on a career in law, Tom is an acute observer, and a man who knows what he wants. For now, that is Clarissa.
As Tom and Clarissa's friendship deepens, the wider landscape of political life around them is changing and another story unfolds: they are not the only people in love. Soon the world- and all that they know- is rocked irrevocably by a war that changes their lives forever.

I know that I am extremely late to the party for this book but I completely fell in love with it. Clarissa and Tom's story will stay with me forever.
I don't want to ruin the plot for anyone else so I shall be careful what I say but I really want to emphasise just how wonderful the story is that Judith Kinghorn has written.
Clarissa and Tom's story begins in the summer of 1914. They come from very different worlds; Clarissa has grown up at Deyning Park surrounded by wealth and luxury whereas Tom is the son of the housekeeper. Although their lives are very different, their connection is instant, a connections they will never lose.
Judith Kinghorn brilliantly captures the change taking place at the time. The world is at war, men are fighting alongside each other; it doesn't matter where you came from, just which side you're on. Clarissa and Tom are caught up in these changes. Clarissa's mother forbids her relationship with Tom; however much she can see a future, Clarissa will not disobey her mother and this leads to devastating consequences. Clarissa is very young and this leads her to make so many mistakes. She comes from a world where you behave in a certain way and you marry certain people. There were so many times when I could see her going down the wrong path out of her sense of duty and I just wanted to drag her back!
The Last Summer explores the aftermath of war, the way it changed society, the way men were damaged both physically and mentally. Women gained a lot of independence during the war, many worked for the first time and this caused problems during peace time.
I did fall in love with Tom Cuthbert. He is besotted with Clarissa and is determined to make something of himself. However, whatever he does always comes back to Clarissa, it's all for her, whether she is his or not.
Judith Kinghorn has an excellent writing style. I really liked the way she used concise sentences and repetition to get her point across. The dialogue between Clarissa and Tom was particularly realistic, it often felt like you were eaves dropping on a personal conversation.
I know many of you have already read this beautiful book  but for those who haven't then please, please do. The Last Summer is a superbly written, poignant read, I simply loved it.

Dot Scribbles Rating: 5/5

Many thanks to Headline for sending me a copy to review.


jessicabookworm said...

I haven't read this novel yet but I really want to. The more I hear about the more I want to read it!

Dot said...

Jessica- I really loved it! I was completely taken with the story and characters!

One More Page said...

Great review Dot - this was my favourite book of last year and I'm so excited that Judith is writing a sequel!

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