SUMMER ISLAND by Kristin Hannah

Variously described in reviews as poignant, funny, romantic, luminous, tender, with a triumphant ending, this certainly sounds like the complete package for a good read.  There are definitely elements of this all the way through the novel, but it is a long drawn out, at times turgid and frustrating journey. And I would hardly say the ending is triumphant! More like predictable. Right from first couple of chapters, you know exactly how this is going to pan out - a death, a reckoning, a love story, a coming together. We have all read novels where we know what is going to happen, but some writers tell it better than others. This is very average - enough to engage you, but not enough to wow you.

This is one of the author's early novels, published in 2001. She has come a very long way since which is marvellous - only a couple of years ago she wrote the wonderful and memorable 'The Nightengale'. What a dazzling story that is. Read that, and not this. Although you could read this, and then marvel at how her writing and story telling has developed in the years since.

Summer Island is a fictional island in the San Juan island group, north west of Seattle. For Ruby's family it was both a holiday place and, for a while where the family lived. It is also the place from which Ruby's mother Nora deserted the family some 15 years earlier when Ruby was 11. Her father never get over his wife leaving, and it left huge scars on Ruby and her sister Caroline. Ruby is now in her late 20s, a failing/failed comedienne, at a loss in her personal and professional life. Nora has become a celebrated radio agony aunt talk show host and newspaper columnist. She is very famous, and very estranged from Ruby, who has never forgiven her mother for leaving. Nora's life suddenly takes a wild down ward turn, exposing her to nationwide ridicule. Ruby is given the chance to make some money and get revenge back on her mother by writing a tell-all story of the family. Full of rage and retribution she makes her way back to Summer Island to nurse her mother and write her book. Things do not go as planned. What a surprise. Of course we find out the real reason Nora left and didn't come back, what happened to Ruby's father, and sweetest of all, what happened to her first love, who just happens - yes really, just happens to be on the island too! What a coincidence. Dean is nursing his terminally ill brother. Again, deserted by parents - so sad.

It is a light, harmless read, usual themes of family dynamics, secrets, misunderstandings, and forgiveness. Well written, but just a little dull. No more than 3 out of 5. 

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