BOOK REVIEW: THE SUMMER HOUSE BY SANTA MONTEFIORE

SUMH

GENERAL INFORMATION

TITLE: THE SUMMER HOUSE

AUTHOR: SANTA MONTEFIORE

PAGES: 456

PUBLISHER: SIMON & SCHUSTER

YEAR: 2012

GENRE: GENERAL FICTION

COVER TYPE: PAPER BACK

http://books.simonandschuster.co.uk/Summer-House/Santa-Montefiore/9781847379276

www.santamontefiore.co.uk

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Antoinette’s world has fallen apart: her husband, the man she loved for as long as she can remember, has died tragically in an accident. He was her rock, the man she turned to for love and support, the man she knew better than she knew herself. Or at least she thought – 

For as she arrives at the familiar old stone church for George’s funeral, she sees a woman she has never met before. 

Phaedra loved George as well, and she could not bear to stay away from his funeral. But as she sits before his wife, she knows that what she is about to reveal will change all their lives forever.   

EXTRACT 

The beginning of March had been glorious. The earth had sunken off the early-morning frosts and little buds had emerged through the hardened bark to reveal lime-green shoots and pale-pink blossom. Daffodils had pushed their way up through the thawing ground to open into bright-yellow trumpets, and the sun had shone with renewed radiance. Birdsong filled the air and the branches were once again aquiver with the bustle of nest-building. It had been a triumphant start to spring. 

OVERALL IMPRESSION 

I thought The Summer House was okay. I didn’t find it anything special. It’s no better or worse than anything else I’ve read. I just couldn’t get on board with any of the upper class, aristocratic characters. I didn’t think the plot was very original. Montefiore just rehashes a story that’s been told a thousand times before in a familiar way. An author really needs to do better than The Summer House to impress me.

REVIEW 

I found the title was a bit on the boring side. It wasn’t very interesting or inspirational. I picked the book up in the library because I’ve read interviews with Montefiore and rave reviews of her work in various magazines. She could have thought of something more interesting than The Summer House.

I really struggled to get on with any of the characters in The Summer House. I only really enjoy a book if I can relate to the characters in some way. It can be something very small but it needs to be there. Montefiore’s characters are all upper class aristocrats. I didn’t like any of them very much. I found it hard to feel any really sympathy for people with so much money and status they were detached from most of reality. I found something flat and unbelievable about most of them. They were all quite superficial. I don’t even want to get started on what a stupid name Phaedra is for someone. Montefiore gets the thumbs down for her characters.

The plot in The Summer House was okay but not very original. The front cover hints at hidden pasts… forbidden love. This isn’t quite accurate. Montefiore offers us her version of an often told tale of infidelity. Phaedra is the other woman in George’s life. The mistress turning up at her dead lover’s funeral and introducing herself to the grieving wife – I’m sure I’ve read that one a few times before. Montefiore injects a bit of originality by having Phaedra pose as George’s daughter at first but not enough to make it work for me. Another thumbs down.

I enjoyed some of the scenes in The Summer House, especially in the first 300 pages. I enjoyed the bits where Phaedra started to develop a relationship with her ‘new family’. They invite her to various outings including the reading of George’s will, their holiday home and the mansion. I thought these bits were nice. Phaedra and George’s son David are attracted to each other. David believes she is his half-sister and fights this attraction. I though these bits were very well written. It’s not very often an author tackles the subject of incest and Montefiore pulls this off without making it creepy.

I was disappointed when Montefiore reveals Phaedra is actually George’s daughter. I liked the way this was revealed. George’s creepy lawyer sends a DVD to Antoinette of her husband’s fatal hiking trip that shows him speaking to someone on the phone he clearly loves. The lawyer sent the DVD because Phaedra rejected him and she confesses the truth. I liked the way this was written. I was disappointed because I’d suspected for while Phaedra was his mistress and wanted Montefiore to prove me wrong. I felt that by revealing Phaedra was the mistress Montefiore choose the obvious and dull way out. I would have enjoyed The Summer House much better if Phaedra had been his daughter who was just after her inheritance or if the whole thing was a scam concocted by Phaedra and the lawyer. I felt Montefiore chose a boring route.

The ending made me want to hurl. Montefiore went for a twee ‘they all lived happy ever after ‘approach. Phaedra  and David get married and live in the mansion. I wanted to puke at all the rosy happiness. I don’t think over-happy endings. I like things to be more ambiguous.

I was quite disappointed by Montefiore’s style of writing. I felt she used far too much description at times. This was especially obvious in the descriptions of the scenery. I really don’t need an author to give me a vivid picture postcard image in my head of the garden and the bedroom and every other location. Montefiore reveals her characters thoughts and emotions far too much. It was all a bit too heavy handed for me.

FINAL THOUGHTS 

The Summer House didn’t quite work for me. I thought the characters were insipid and paper-thin. I found the plot pretty run of the mill except in a few areas. I wasn’t very impressed by Montefiore’s style of writing. I found The Summer House so-so. I’ve read much better but a lot worse. I don’t know if I would read any more of Montefiore’s work.

RATING

3 STAR RATING

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17 Comments Add yours

  1. Margaret Langford says:

    Grrrrooan, I picked this book up in a hotel where we were staying in very rural Italy and suffered through it because I didn’t have anything else to read. I found it truly dreadful, full of clichés with unconvincing characters who all turn out to be nauseatingly nice even if they started out as potentially crusty and with a very predictable plot. The very worst bit was the DVD of George’s telephone call – as if he would allow such a personal and intimate telephone call to be recorded! What really shocked me is that the author is married to Simon Sebag Montefiore whose books I have read and admire. How can he live with a woman who writes such dreary fluff?

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