Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I realise that sometimes I get sent books for free. As a lifelong bookworm, I never fail to thrill at the arrival of some book post (actually, I thrill at all fun blog post, but books are a double whammy of awesome!), and adore reading proofs of great new books and releases.
At the tail end of last month I was sent a copy of The Last Days of Summer, the debut novel by American author Vanessa Ronan. Set in the prairies of West Texas, I came to this book completely fresh and not really sure what to expect. The central story revolves around Lizzie and her brother, Jasper. Jasper has been in prison for a decade before coming to live with Lizzie and her two daughters, and the book charts his return to small town life after serving his time.
There’s much to recommend about this book. I love how well-drawn and vivid the setting is. I enjoyed the way Ronan conjured up the bleak sweep of the prairies; having spent time in the flatness of the Great Plains I loved how she made you feel as though you were right there. I thought the evoking of small town lives, with all that entails, was written well.
After a good start, the book fell into a bit of a lull for me, but the final chapters really picked up the pace and I was glad that I’d toughed it out through to the denouement (it’s always tricky when reviewing not to give too much away, isn’t it?!).
I enjoyed that we don’t know what Jasper’s crime is until towards the end of the action, and the multiple perspectives used in the book gave an interesting chain of events. I can find books with multiple narrators a tad annoying when fluffed, but here Ronan controls her cast of characters well, and I never felt like the changes in narrator were becoming tiresome or gimmicky.
All in all, I’m glad I read this book. I liked it rather than loved it, if that makes sense? The characters at times lost my attention (that middle third was overlong, for my tastes), but the end of the book was really something. If you like literary fiction, this book is certainly worth a read, and I’ll certainly be looking out for book two from Vanessa Ronan – her turn of phrase and her descriptions of place are quite beautiful.
Disclaimer: I was kindly sent a copy of ‘The Last Days of Summer’ to review. Opinions all mine, as ever!