“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.
Luc Crépet is accustomed to his mother’s bringing wounded creatures to their idyllic château in the French countryside, where healing comes naturally amid the lush wildflowers and crumbling stone walls. Yet his maman’s newest project is the most surprising: a fifteen-year-old Scottish girl grieving over her parents’ fate. A curious child with an artistic soul, Clare Ross finds solace in her connection to Luc, and she in turn inspires him in ways he never thought possible. Then, just as suddenly as Clare arrives, she is gone, whisked away by her grandfather to the farthest reaches of the globe. Devastated by her departure, Luc begins to write letters to Clare—and, even as she moves from Portugal to Africa and beyond, the memory of the summer they shared keeps her grounded.
Years later, in the wake of World War I, Clare, now an artist, returns to France to help create facial prostheses for wounded soldiers. One of the wary veterans who comes to the studio seems familiar, and as his mask takes shape beneath her fingers, she recognizes Luc. But is this soldier, made bitter by battle and betrayal, the same boy who once wrote her wistful letters from Paris? After war and so many years apart, can Clare and Luc recapture how they felt at the edge of that long-ago summer?
Bringing to life two unforgettable characters and the rich historical period they inhabit, Jessica Brockmole shows how love and forgiveness can redeem us.
The synopsis pretty much covers it all. At the Edge of Summer is a book about two people who meet one summer, a 15-year-old orphaned girl and a 19-year-old college student. They form a strong bond and help each other discover crucial aspects of themselves, then spend years apart, separated first by geography and then by war.
The story should have been much more moving than I found it. I simply didn’t connect with the characters in the first section of the book, during their early summer together, so I never really invested in their connection or their relationship. Clare’s artistic aspirations didn’t resonate with me, and I couldn’t envision her as a real person.
Luc is much more sympathetic, and the portions of the story about his wartime experiences are quite sad to read. Still, something about this book just left me cold.
I was interested to see the depiction of the real-life studio in Paris that specialized in masks for men disfigured during the war. I’ve encountered versions of this story before, most recently in a short story in the Fall of Poppies collection (to which Jessica Brockmole contributed a terrific story, by the way). The studio really existed, and its real-life founder, Anna Coleman Ladd, is included in this novel as well.
Stories of the First World War and the horrific experiences of the soldiers, on the battlefields, in the trenches, and upon their return to society, are always moving and startling to read about. Somehow, though, At the Edge of Summer failed to fully engage my emotions. I consider it a decent novel, but wouldn’t go farther than saying that it was a fine read and I don’t regret the time spent on it.
Title: At The Edge of Summer
Author: Jessica Brockmole
Publication date: May 17, 2016
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley