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The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn

The Last Summer (edition 2012)

by Judith Kinghorn (Author)

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1416127,608 (4.41)5
Title:The Last Summer
Authors:Judith Kinghorn (Author)
Info:NAL (2012), Edition: Reprint, 464 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn



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This was one of those rare books that I fell into completely. The heart wrenching, at times irritating, relationship between Clarissa and Tom was beautiful. For me this was a book of emotions. The events of the story, the people in it- I felt it all deeply. Definitely a book for fans of Downton Abbey, though in no way is this a copy of the show. Here the story is much more about Clarissa and the deep love she has for Tom and the twists of fate that bring them closer and wrench them apart than an upstairs/downstairs romance. ( )
  eschaalman | Nov 30, 2016 |
'I watched you, and I'd never seen anything or anyone as beautiful.'

This novel takes us into the world of Clarissa Granville, a young woman approaching her seventeenth birthday, living a happy and privileged existence with her family at their wonderful country house, Deyning Park. The house itself, and the landscape around Deyning are vividly described, the lush gardens, the expansive grounds, the lake. We meet Clarissa at the start of the summer of 1914, enjoying lovely summer days with her three brothers and the rest of her family and friends. She is introduced to handsome, clever Tom Cuthbert, who is the son of the housekeeper at Deyning. He is recently returned from University, and is back staying with his mother. Tom is invited to a party at the main house and there Clarissa meets and is spellbound by him, and he by her. Their time together during that summer ignites a love and burning need for each other that will be with them forever. Then the world begins to change, and the impending war will alter all their lives permanently.

The author has crafted a mesmerizing love story, and totally captured a time and an age now gone forever. And she has portrayed in period detail the times as they were, and then how the war changed everything, shattered lives, destroyed families, and changed society. The generation who lost so many brothers, cousins, friends; irreplacable. There is such deep sadness and loss.

'The intoxication of youth, snuffed out, extinguished in a matter of months, left in its place only a numbing sobriety. Far too many young souls had alread been sacrificed, too many lives shattered. And to those of us left standing, impotent, on the sideline, with splintered hearts and broken dreams, light had all but vanished from our lives.'

Judith Kinghorn captures the way the world has changed for Clarissa's mother, accustomed to the fineries of life at Deyning, then experiencing how life alters and she is forced to adapt to new circumstances. For others, the world offers new opportunities.

The luxurious life and situation Clarissa is born into dictates the route her life is expected to take. There is little chance for her to take any decisions of her own. 'None of us, no matter our situation or circumstances, could pick up the pieces of life as it had once been, before the war. We had all been changed, and our lives as we'd known them had gone, and gone for ever.'

But in the years after the War, things begin to change. It seems it may be possible, as society changes and the constraints of tradition and history are being broken, for a woman such as her to shed her background and become independent, to work, to live freely; something she could never have contemplated before: 'Had I ever been free? I'd never, not once, had any say in my life, in my destiny. It had all been decided long ago, by my parents, and then by Mama...I'd always been owned, but never by me.'

There is another love story hidden within the pages, with short extracts from letters scattered throughout the main narrative; another love story, which is revealed at the end of the novel.

I didn't know this story would take such a strong hold on my heart.

I genuinely loved this book. It is an absolutely wonderful romantic novel. It gripped me completely from start to finish, it wrung my heart out. Clarissa is a wonderful first-person narrative voice, we are with her as she grows up and close by her side as she makes her way through life, making mistakes, gaining experience, learning about herself, and Tom is a marvellous romantic leading man, who finds, after the horrors of war, that a changing society offers new advantages to someone like him, but will he ever be good enough to be accepted by Clarissa's Mama?

I thought about the characters. I became wrapped up in the love story of Clarissa and Tom. Theirs is an all-consuming love. Neither of them could ever love anyone else. For them, in their hearts and souls, there is only each other. They implore each other, 'don't let me go. Never let me go.' But they seem destined never to be together. The time and place is wrong, or the circumstances. I had to know how this would end. The passion and the pain of separation of these two people seemed to live beyond the words on the page, to have jumped from the page and become real to me; I cared deeply as to the outcome.

Tom is so handsome, I could picture him. 'He shone. For there was a light that emanated from him, his soul, his substance.' This idea of him as a brilliant light that disarms Clarissa, a potency strong enough to overwhelm her. 'For there was something about him - his face - that dazzled me, quite literally dazzled me: as though he were a light much too bright to gaze upon directly. And in that light I was naked; every sensation amplified; each thought audible. I think I fell quite in love with him too myself whilst reading!

I read the penultimate chapter through tears. I was bereft on finishing this story. It reminded me that we have to grasp happiness where and when we can.

A beautifully written and utterly lovely romantic novel that is certainly amongst my favourite reads this year so far. ( )
  LindsaysLibrary | Aug 19, 2016 |
This book has be completely enthralled, I couldn't put it down! I'm a huge fan of historical fiction so it's no surprise that I enjoyed a novel set in WWI London, but it was also such an idyllic coming of age story. It evoked so many emotions both romantic and heart-breaking.

While Clarissa's character remained aloof that to me, I identified with her so well that when she cried I cried and by the end I was desperate for her to have some semblance of a happy ending. It was a transformative read and seriously one of my new favorite books. ( )
  CInacio | Mar 30, 2016 |
4.5 Stars ( )
  Melissa_J | Jan 16, 2016 |
This is such a beautiful, understated piece of writing and a pleasure to read.

Clarissa is 17 years old, living at her family's country house, Deyning Park, during 'the last summer', being the summer of 1914 just before the First World War broke out. She meets Tom, their housekeeper's son, and falls in love with him, but of course her status means that their love is thwarted.

This is not a book about war, although it looms large over the story. This is a book completely about the torments of love and loss. It's told in the first person by Clarissa and it works perfectly that way. I think it wouldn't have been nearly so good told in the third person because it would simply be a recounting of events rather than somebody giving an account of their feelings.

I enjoyed this book immensely and I found myself engrossed in it. Highly recommended and I'm looking forward to reading Judith Kinghorn's next novel. ( )
  nicx27 | Mar 31, 2013 |
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"In July of 1914, innocent, lovely Clarissa Granville lives with her parents and three brothers in the idyllic isolation of Deyning Park, a grand English country house, where she whiles away her days enjoying house parties, country walks and tennis matches. Clarissa is drawn to Tom Cuthbert, the housekeeper's handsome son. Though her parents disapprove of their upstairs-downstairs friendship, the two are determined to see each other, and they meet in secret to share what becomes a deep and tender romance. But soon the winds of war come to Deyning, as they come to all of Europe. As Tom prepares to join the front lines, neither he nor Clarissa can envision what lies ahead of them in the dark days and years to come. Nor can they imagine how their love will be tested, or how they will treasure the memory of this last, perfect summer" -- Cover verso.… (more)

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