Touted to be the holiday read for the summer of 2014, The Summer Without You by Karen Swan was my book of choice for the long flight from Amsterdam to Auckland.
London-based photographer Rowena Tipton is looking for a distraction while her long-term boyfriend presses pause on their relationship for the coming 6 months with the promise of a long awaited proposal upon his return. A chance encounter at a New York City wedding leads to an audition for a coveted summer season house share in The Hamptons – an elite beachside area just a Jitney ride away from the city. Rowena has a summer ahead of her in a foreign country, a new town, with a new business to start, and three eclectic housemates to guide her along the way.
I’ve never been to The Hamptons but Karen Swan, the Sunday Times Bestselling author of Christmas at Tiffany’s, transported me there – which is fairly impressive while sitting in economy for two 13 hour flights. This book is a true escape into a glamorous world of white-sanded beaches, exclusive private clubs, incredible homes, and lively and delightful characters. Alone for the first time in her adult life Rowena is introduced to a world far from what she is used to in her little flat in London.
Karen Swan touches upon many themes in this novel from romance and the intricacies of relationships, our fears and expectations, what it takes to set up a new life abroad, right the way through to environment issues and even a bit of murder mystery. What makes it truly impossible to put down are the continuous twists and turns in the plot, something which Swan is known for and incredibly good at – anyone who has read her other novels will know just what I mean.
Now on her eighth novel, Karen Swan plans to write two books a year – for summer and Christmas – which is an exciting prospect for all of her ardent fans.
She began her career in fashion journalism and fortunately took the advice of those around her and sat down one day to write a scene and that was it, a novelist was born. She now writes in a tree house at the bottom of her garden in picturesque Sussex, England.
At 562 pages in paperback, some might be put off by the sheer size of the book itself but at no point does the story line drag on. It flows at a comfortable pace and if anything you’re only left wishing for more by the final chapter.
My one critique might have been that the main character, Rowena, felt a little feeble and weak at the beginning of the story which might make it difficult for some readers to be drawn in early on. Hang on in there though as Swan’s stunning and engaging writing and beautiful descriptions soon bring The Hamptons and Rowena’s adventure to life. Rowena quickly becomes a relatable character that you want only the best for and you’ll be cheering her on, much like I was in the back rows of my flight.
Reading this book en route to New Zealand for my own big move, this story was a perfect reminder of staying open-minded and letting go of our fears, hang-ups and expectations. From the fabulous setting to a plot full of intrigue, drama and romance, The Summer Without You is a fantastic read whether pool-side with a cocktail or up in the air at 30,000ft.