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That Summer: A Novel Hardcover – June 3, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250014506
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250014504
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

When Julia inherits her great-aunt’s house in Herne Hill, outside London, it’s a good time for her to take a break from New York, where she has no work or romantic ties. Returning to England, however, brings up suppressed memories of her dead mother and childhood, and while sorting through the home’s myriad belongings, Julia uncovers a mysterious painting that not only played a significant role in her family’s story but also in art history. We learn that Julia’s ancestor, Imogen, came to Herne Hill as a young bride in 1849 and became trapped in a passionless, childless marriage. When her husband hires a young artist to paint her portrait, he and Julia have an ill-fated affair. Popular novelist Willig (The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, 2013) weaves together Julia’s and Imogen’s stories and further enriches the tale with details about the Pre-Raphaelite movement, gleaned from Julia’s involvement with Nicholas, an enigmatic antiques dealer. Willig’s latest is a smart blend of historical romance and contemporary self-discovery story. --Aleksandra Walker

Review

Willig's novel has superior predecessors-Byatt's Possession, Ackroyd's Chatterton-but she brings an easy, contemporary charm to her characters, ensuring the perfect beach read. (Kirkus Reviews)

Customer Reviews

I recommended this book highly for anyone wanting a great book to read.
Margaret
I love reading books that have two different characters, one in present time and one in the past.
Busy Mom
I will look forward to reading another book by Lauren Willig as this was my first.
Kindle Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Cathy G. Cole TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've been a fan of Gothic novels since I was barely into my teens. For me, it wasn't the romance of the story, but the (often) spooky mansion and the treasures it almost always had tucked away. I must've been in the perfect mood for a return to the Gothic because I fell into That Summer and sank with scarcely a trace.

The old house, Herne Hill, comes up trumps in Willig's story. It's chock-a-block with all sorts of treasures, and when Julia attempts to discover what that big old piece of furniture is hiding, her channeling Nancy Drew and muttering about "the mystery of the old wardrobe" made me laugh. The alternating timelines are also well done. Usually one timeline will be much stronger than the other, but not here. There's too much that needs explanation in Julia's past for it to take a backseat, although I will admit that the 1849 story concerning the always fascinating Pre-Raphaelites does have a tiny bit of an edge.

There are a few stock characters in That Summer; it's hard not to have them in a Gothic novel, but they are limited to a couple of minor characters. The pairs of lovers (or wannabes)-- Imogen and Gavin, Julia and Nicholas-- come close to being perfect. It's fun to read and attempt to deduce the motivations for their behavior. The romance aspect is also very well done: there's enough for romance readers to sigh happily and wish for a little more while not antagonizing those who prefer little-to-no throbbing hearts in their fiction.

Humor, romance, a good brush with creepy characters and situations now and again, secret hiding places, art treasures, and an old house with a story to tell.... If you're in the mood, then I know the book to recommend: Lauren Willig's That Summer.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a format that's getting a bit long in the tooth: the dual-narrative novel, in which the main character unearths a mystery or a puzzle, and then a backstory, set in the past, explains to us, the reader, what is going on, even as the protagonist in the main novel is figuring out for herself. Kate Morton has done it; Deborah Lawrenson used the device in "The Lantern", as did Susanna Kearsley in "The Firebird", Kate Mosse in "Labyrinth", and so on. The format risks becoming formulaic...

In this novel by Lauren Willig, the main story is set in 2009, when unemployed consultant Julia Conley unexpectedly inherits a house in London from a great-aunt whose existence she doesn't even recall; after her mother's sudden and tragic death, her father had moved her across the Atlantic to start afresh in New York. Now the house is Julia's -- and in it, she soon discovers a Pre-Raphaelite painting that seems to be linked to a portrait of a woman who is an ancestor on the wall of the sitting room downstairs. Zooom, and back we go in time to the 1840s, and the subject of that painting, Imogen Grantham, who is unhappily marrried but lives to see her stepdaughter more happily settled in life. When her husband begins patronizing a circle of Pre-Raphaelite painters, her own life becomes brighter, but her stepdaughter may be put at risk.

The problem with these novels is making both halves work well. In this case, the contemporary part of the story was a nice little love story, complete with misunderstandings and a quest to discover the story behind the paintings, with some less than amiable relatives muddying the waters a bit.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dave Parker VINE VOICE on May 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Recently downsized financial analyst Julia was surprised to be notified that she had inherited a house in England from her Aunt Regina Ashe. She didn’t remember an Aunt Regina. Julia and her surgeon father had immigrated to New York shortly after her mother’s death when Julia was a child. Nothing was ever said about their early years in England – or any family there. Her father suggests she head to England, sort through Regina’s belongings, and sell the house.

Julia’s cousin Natalie met her at the house on her arrival and offered to help sort through Aunt Regina’s household. At first, Julia preferred to look through alone, but welcomed some assistance. While wandering through the house shortly after she arrived, Julia comes face-to-face with a beautiful painting of A woman sitting in a garden – and looking lost or sad. She has a strange feeling about the painting, and the woman depicted so expertly.

Saturday cousin Natalie arrived prepared to help – and with the assistance of her brother and his friend Nicholas Dorrington, a local shop owner and expert in antiques. Nicholas has been brought along to help evaluate the antiques and provide guidance on their value in preparation for selling them. One of those antiques was an armoire with a false back – and a hidden Pre-Rafaelite painting by the same artist who painted the woman.

That Summer moves smoothly between the 1850’s and 2009, providing a history of the paintings and their significance via research by Nicholas and Julia. The reader is treated to the romance behind the paintings in segments interleaved with their developing 2009 romance, implying a parallel between the two.
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More About the Author

Lauren Willig is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen works of historical fiction. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages, awarded the RITA, Booksellers Best and Golden Leaf awards, and chosen for the American Library Association's annual list of the best genre fiction. After graduating from Yale University, she embarked on a PhD in English History at Harvard before leaving academia to acquire a JD at Harvard Law while authoring her "Pink Carnation" series of Napoleonic-set novels. She lives in New York City, where she now writes full time.

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That Summer: A Novel
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