Book review: Our Summer Together by Fanny Blake

Our Summer Together by Fanny Blake
Our Summer Together by Fanny Blake

Even women of ‘a certain age’ need a second chance at life… and no one knows that better than Fanny Blake.

A publisher for many years before becoming a freelance journalist and writer, this acutely observant storyteller’s warm, wise and uplifting novels have given new heart and hope to middle-aged women who feared that life and love ended with the arrival of the big 60.

Family and friendships are what Blake does best and her raft of inspirational and stunningly perceptive books, including The Secrets Women Keep, With a Friend Like You and Women of a Dangerous Age, have explored just what it is that makes women tick… and how they cope at important crossroads in their lives.

In Our Summer Together – surely one of Blake’s best and most beautiful stories to date – we meet artist and teacher Caro who is embarking on a new life of freedom after the break-up of her marriage and discovering that she needs to find her real self before she can open up her heart to love again.

Caro knows how to be a mother, advising her two grown-up daughters, Amy and Lauren, on career and relationship worries. She knows how to be a grandmother, enjoying the hectic energy of her three-year-old grandson Danny. She knows how to be a daughter, helping her 83-year-old widowed mother May retain her independence.

Caro also thought she knew everything about being a wife but when her husband Chris suddenly left her a few months ago for another woman, everything was thrown into the air, including holding on to Treetops, her much-loved home of 30 years.

When a chance meeting on the train introduces her to Damir, a handsome Bosnian painter and decorator who is intriguing, attentive and 14 years younger than herself, Caro finds herself more than a little attracted to him and inviting him to become her lodger to prevent having to sell her home.

She has been adamant that she doesn’t need another man in her life after Chris but, as her mother wisely advises, ‘Happiness is in short enough supply so we should always take what is on offer.’

That doesn’t mean there won’t be problems ahead… sharing her home with a man so different from everyone else in her life, coping with the social prejudices of her family and friends, and learning to understand the emotional difficulties of a man badly scarred by the war in Bosnia will force Caro to take a good look at who she is, and where she wants to be.

Hope really does spring eternal in this poignant paean to marriage, motherhood, love in its many different manifestations, and the exquisite, ageless thrills of romance which have been making the world go round since the beginning of time.

Blake’s intelligent and emotional exploration of one sixty-something woman’s search for happiness and fulfilment will strike a chord with those who have faced the slings and arrows of middle age and the responsibilities of caring for family from all the generations.

Her pitch perfect characterisation, wry humour and attention to detail when it comes to portraying the recognisable home truths of domestic life are just some of the joys of this delightful novel which lifts the soul and warms the heart just like the languorous beauty of a midsummer’s day.

(Orion, paperback, £7.99)