Source- Review copy
Publisher- Allen & Unwin
Publication date- Re-published July 2012
Synopsis- Rory Buchanan has it all: looks, talent, charisma – an all around good-guy, he’s the centre of every party and a loving father and husband. Then one summer’s afternoon tragedy strikes … and those who are closest to him struggle to come to terms with their loss. Friendships are strained, marriages falter and loyalties are tested in a gripping and brilliantly crafted novel of loss, grief and desire.
Told from the points of view of nine of the people who are mourning Rory, this riveting novel presents a vivid snapshot of contemporary suburban Australia and how we live now. Marriage, friendship, family-all are dissected with great psychological insight as they start to unravel under the pressure of grief. The characters live on the page; their lives are unfolded and their dilemmas are as real as our own.
Last Summer is a stunning novel about loss-the terrible pain of losing a husband, brother or friend-but also all those smaller losses that everyone must face: the loss of youth, the shattering of dreams, the fading of convictions and the change in our notions of who we thought we were. It is also about what comes after the loss: how we pick up the pieces and the way we remake our lives.
Review- Last Summer is my first Kylie Ladd novel and I really enjoyed this Australian author’s take on the aftermath of death among a group of friends in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. When talented recreational cricketer Rory Buchanan dies unexpectedly at cricket practice from a heart condition, his wife, children and friends struggle to deal with their loss.
When I was almost seventeen and smack bang in the middle of my HSC trial exams, my best friend died in a car accident. Much of that time for me was a blur, but I still remember where I was and how I felt the moment the news broke. The aftermath was an extremely confusing time for me, it was the first brush with death I had experienced at that age and didn’t know what to expect. I was caught between wanting to move on and remember my friend with happy memories and wanting to respectfully mourn her too. So when I read the opening chapter of Last Summer which relays Nick’s account of losing his best mate I could connect with his experience on a deep level.
I was surprised thereafter to find that the POV switched at each chapter between four couples; Kelly (Rory’s sister) and her husband Joe, Nick and Laine, Anita and James, Pete and Trinity and Colleen, Rory’s widowed wife. I was a tad disappointed that Nick didn’t have another chapter to himself until much later in the book and I actually found Nick and Laine’s story to be the most unresolved out of all the couples by the end- which was unfortunate because it was these two characters that I felt I connected with at the outset.
Last Summer explores the different ways people mourn; by withdrawing, by being surrounded by people, by talking or by dealing with it solitarily. The grief managed to affect each of these 9 adults in various ways and within the couples they were challenged with staying connected. Rory had always been the outgoing, sociable guy who brought everyone together and the group struggle to celebrate his memory when the one person who held them all together is no longer with them.
Through insightful storytelling, Kylie Ladd explores the many layers of grief and its effect on the family unit, friendships and the individual. She skilfully allows the reader to connect with many characters and understand them from various viewpoints. No doubt her background in psychology has allowed her to access her characters at a deep level and present them in a way that readers can relate to. Everyone has experienced loss at some stage in their life and with every loss comes change; Ladd explores how this change can transpire in the lives of friends and family. I’ll definitely be seeking out her first novel, After the Fall.
Purchase book @
About the author: Kylie Ladd is a novelist and freelance writer. Her essays and articles have appeared in the Age, Griffith Review and O magazine, among others, and she is a regular contributor to the popular MamaMia website. Kylie’s first novel, After the Fall, was published in Australia, the US and Turkey. Her previous books are Naked: Confessions of Adultery and Infidelity and Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias. She holds a PhD in neuropsychology and lives in Melbourne with her husband and two children.
This book was read as part of the AWW2012 challenge: