Book Review: The Summer of Secrets

Thursday 6 August 2015 by

The Summer of Secrets, Black Swan, Transworld, Sarah Jasmon, Book, ReadingThe Summer of Secrets by Sarah Jasmon

Published by Black Swan

Publishes 13th August 2015

In the summer of 1983, when Helen is sixteen, the Dover family move in to a nearby tumbledown cottage, at once making Helen’s lonely world a more thrilling place. She is infatuated with the bohemian family, especially with the petulant and charming Victoria.

But the summer ends suddenly one tumultuous night, and the next day Helen wakes up to discover that the Dovers have simply disappeared.

Helen spends thirty years not knowing what happened that summer’s evening… until one day, with no warning, Victoria comes back.


One of the huge joys of the Curtis Brown bookgroup is that they send you books you would never think of reading as part of a bookgroup. The Summer of Secrets is just one of those types of books!

It tells the story in two parts: sixteen-year-old Helen, and forty-six-year-old Helen. In 1983, Helen meets the Dover family, and spends a tumultuous and surreal summer with them until one night it all changes.

The crux of the story is what happened that night and, in true thriller style, it is only revealed to you in part, building to the crescendo of the end. Helen is a delightful protagonist, and Victoria is an interesting character to pitch Helen against. She is indecipherable, a precocious sixteen year old that you all recognise (and all dislike).

It was interesting to see how many readers recognised that summer as the summer of 1983, and how familiar that childhood was. For me, perhaps the year was not so familiar, but the experience certainly was – the long, endless summer and the intriguing, bohemian neighbours that appear and disappear like wraiths.

This is a quick read, well-paced, well-balanced, and thrilling. I loved the strength of the characters, even in their vulnerability. There is a powerful sense of place, the setting almost as important as the characters themselves. Having spent half my childhood by a canal, there is something incredibly familiar about the place – comforting and yet eerie.

Jasmon is a short story writer, and it comes across in the episodic nature of the chapters. I would love to read some of her short stories, as I feel that may be her strongest style, but as a first foray in to novel-writing, this packs a powerful punch. Definitely recommended for all thriller fans.

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