Monday 18 July 2011

The Summer of the Bear - Bella Pollen

It's 1979 and Nicky Fleming is a British diplomat in Germany. It's the cold war and so when he dies from falling from the roof everyone suspects him of defecting. Letitia takes her children away and moves back to the Hebridean Island she was brought up on. There she shuts down as she wonders how much did she really know her husband. Meanwhile her children have their own problems. Georgie is trying to hold the family together while she dreams of boys and her future away from the island. Alba is angry and takes that anger out on everyone around her, especially Jamie. Jamie believes that his father will come back to him. After all he promised. He spends his time wondering the island look for the bear that broke loose, believing it to be a sign from his father.

The book jacket describes it as a part suspense-thriller, part fairy-tale. The fairy-tale I can understand but for me there was very little suspense. The mother tries to uncover what happened to her husband. Did he really betray his country? There was very little of that until the end though and then the truth proved to be dull and disappointing. It was an aside almost until the discovered what had really happened.

The rest of the story though was extremely sweet. Jamie is a lovely character who sees the world in a very different way to the rest of the family. He's a sweet little boy who is waiting for his dad to come back because he promised he would. The author managed to write his parts with out making him so sweet he is irritating. Instead he is extremely lovable. Alba's character on the other hand was a little too hard to take. Children can be viscous. She is angry and to top it off she's going through puberty. A difficult time for anyone. She redeems herself in the end but I find it hard to believe that this girl was really that nasty. I think there were times when the author took it too far. In saying that she wasn't a completely unlikable character. Especially by the end of the book.

I loved the setting of the book. Island life in Scotland is fascinating. I think I would have liked it had there been more of that in there. I also felt that there was still unfinished business with some of the islanders at the end. I would have liked those loose threads to be brought together. I think it would have made the ending that much more satisfying.

If you are looking for a suspense book this isn't it. I can honestly say that it will only disappoint. If you are looking for a story of a broken family who are trying to pull themselves back together then this is it. It is a lovely story in that sense and once I reconciled myself to the fact that it wasn't going to be exciting I very much enjoyed it.


  1. This sounds good - I like the idea of a story about the family behind it all.

  2. I've seen a few negative reviews so it's good to hear that it might be because they were expecting suspense. I love the title and I am often drawn to books just for interesting titles!