The Last Summer used that enchanting period before England entered World War I as the backdrop for a fantastic love story. This was not a cheesy romance, but a deep and moving love worthy of being compared to The Notebook. Clarissa was content with the idyllic surroundings of her family’s estate, coming out parties, and proper society until she met her housekeeper’s son, Tom. Tom was a student of law at university, which made Clarissa see him as a suitor rather than someone “in service” and beneath her. The war quickly interrupted their romance, as did meddling mothers, and their subsequent struggle made for a great read!
This read like a memoir, with Clarissa speaking directly to the reader and reflecting on her actions and outlook on life. The prose used by Judith Kinghorn were beautiful and delicate, which made this read like a poem. Clarissa’s observations exuded the love she had for Tom: the movement of the moon, the morning mist, etc. Because the book captured a period of time that spanned several years, often months were told in a matter of paragraphs, but that speed never disrupted the story. Slowly, the realities of war aided Clarissa in become an adult who sought more from life than what her mother wanted for her, namely, a tidy, but loveless, marriage to a man of good breeding. I liked that Clarissa was a character who truly developed throughout the novel, changing from an impetuous girl to a woman who struggled with braking free of the requirements placed on her by her mother as a result of Clarissa’s social status. Every other character had just a supporting role and their descriptions were limited to what Clarissa knew of them. I didn’t mind that, and it actually helped make her romance with Tom somewhat mysterious because just like Clarissa, at times, I also wasn’t sure how much he loved her.
I tried to find a book just like this for several years, but found the young protagonists either too youthful or the stories too somber. This was a perfect blend of romance weighted down by life changing events. I’ve already added the other books by this author to my list of books to read.