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Death in Summer Paperback – 1999

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140287825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140287820
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 200 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Inside This Book

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First Sentence
After the funeral the hiatus that tragedy brought takes a different form. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

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By Grady Harp TOP 500 REVIEWER on Jan. 16 2002
Format: Paperback
Death in Summer is one of the more appropriate titles for a novel I've seen in a while. William Trevor is a gifted writer, one of characteristic styles that are fascinating, illuminating..yet with a dark view of the world that begs for light. The stories of three deaths, bizarrely interrelated in a strange English place, is only a superficial tease of what lies within and beneath this fine novel. The real passings are about the deaths of life views that occur when indescribable losses alter our lives. Trevor has an uncanny ability to vary his vocabulary/tone/philosophical views/visceral descriptions adjusted according to which of his myriad characters is relating a view of the story. Whether the description of a garden is eloquent when from the mind and mouth of the gentrified owners of the mansion where the story takes place, or the interior of a cafe is puncutated with the glassy views of a declining, bosomy "loose woman", or the stagnation of a squalid orphanage is regarded with acceptance by the ne're-do-well young folks of the street - with each of these disparate voices Trevor allows authenticity beyond the abilities of most contemporary authors. At times his stream of conscious style of writing causes the need to retrace pages to make sure where we are, but that is a glory in and of itself. THAT is how submerged the reader becomes when reading this fine book. It has its own life!
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Format: Paperback
William Trevor has been highly recommended by people I respect, and I do plan on reading more of him. DEATH IN SUMMER is the first of his works I've encountered and while it did not quite live up to what I expected, that's not to say it isn't good. As I read it, I kept imagining it as a contemporary British television dramatization, a medium to which it would translate well, if not better than the page. The story is spare yet complicated: A new widower with an infant interviews and decides not to hire a nanny, instead accepting his mother-in-law's offer to come care for the child. Unknown to him, one of the girls interviewed and not hired as a nanny becomes obsessed with him, interjecting into his life unforeseen consequences, forcing him to confront the emotional isolation in which he had long taken refuge. The characters are fully drawn, as are the settings. The sentences are graceful. The movement of the action is a bit off, spending a little too much time away from the protagonist at times. It can be very quiet, too; doesn't eat its own scenery. In the end, though, it successfully conveys its themes, especially the observation of how so much of our knowledge about others' lives is gathered in eavesdropping or guessing, never with the complete information.
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Format: Paperback
Early in William Trevor's novel, Death in Summer, the male caretaker of the house in which most of the story's action takes place muses about the correlation between horse-racing and a life spent caring for other people's property; a life of servitude but also one of observation. His conclusion is that "Other people's lives, how they are lived and what they are, offer what the vagaries of the turf do: mystery and the pleasure of speculation." Therein lies the pleasure of reading Death in Summer, which offers more observation than commentary,and which tends to show characters' actions first and then only gradually reveal their motives. There is a quiet mystery interwoven into the story, well maintained by Trevor's prose, which is simultaneously simple and beautiful.
Death in Summer is a meloncholy story, which makes sense as the action begins with a death. Letitia, "a person of almost wayward generosity," is killed when a car strikes her bicycle. She leaves behind a husband, Thaddeus and their infant child Georgina. Letitia's death leaves a literal void--now Georgina will grow up without a mother,but she also leaves a symbolic void. Letitia's good nature and uncomplicated love towards her fellow humans is notably absent in the characters that outlive her (with the exception of Albert,whose goodness winds up being just as futile as Letitia's). Pettie, the orphaned girl who interviews for the position of nanny for Georgina, is constantly looking for father figures--older men to fill the void from her past. She falls in love with Thaddeus, but it only leads to a complicated kidnapping plot. Unlike Letitia and Albert, Pettie cannot simply love and wish the best for those she loves.
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Format: Paperback
This is a novel I admire very much. I've just finished reading it a second time in less than six months and I continue to find it profound and extremely moving. I had no idea when I signed on to this site I'd find it in need of defending.
Trevor's work is deceptive, that's certainly clear. I've become familiar with his work in the last few years, and have come to think of him as a writer who makes truly subversive use of a wide range of literary conventions. In the case of Death in Summer, it is the suspense plot he is employing. As in previous works -- I'm thinking along the lines of Felicia's Journey, "Gilbert's Mother," and "The Telephone Game," -- Trevor provides the reader enough suspense to access the characters and story, but ultimately offers a higher, more thematically rich set of conflicts to take its place. The suspense is meant only to assist.
This will lose (judging from the reviews) certain kinds of readers. I can imagine it's frustrating to first and foremost want plot, but to be given theme as your main concern instead. But even that is not a fair description of Death in Summer.
Trevor alerts the reader in the first chapter as to the real substance of his story. What happens in chapter one is the reader's first alert that the book is more than the story of a missing baby.
Thaddeus' wife, who is dead when the book begins, is featured prominently in the first chapter via a flashback. She makes what is to be a pivotal and (potentially) instructive act of generosity. She convinces her husband to help an old friend of his, a woman she has never met (and whom she has likely guessed was once her husband's lover).
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