One short, beautiful summer of love, and then a tragedy – and the Vietnam War – will drive four friends apart.
But nothing is straightforward about what has come between them. And nothing is clear, really, until years later, when Nick goes back to where it all happened and trawls through his memory to put the pieces together.
Charles Hall’s novel tells a very personal story set in Australia in the rebellious days of the 60s, a decade of upheaval, when one’s own journey was intensified by the politics of the world – civil rights, feminism, drugs and, at the heart of the upheaval, the Vietnam War and conscription. It was a time of uproar on every level – families, music, film, relationships and a belief that not only did the world need changing but that ordinary people could change it…
Note: I was provided a copy of this book for review
What I love about this book is how Hall manages to capture the feeling of Australia in the 1960s and the following years through war, feminism, personal journeys, and most of all what it meant to be young. As someone who was not even alive during this time I found myself getting sad and reflective about the whole thing and it isn’t even my story, or close to my experiences, but Hall makes you become involved with these characters and care for them and every set back or joyful moment they have becomes yours. I was reminiscing alongside Nick despite the fact I have never experienced anything even remotely close and these were not even my memories to recall.
Part of what makes Hall’s writing work is that he knows how to make the reader understand the emotions and experiences of the characters. He knows how to capture the feeling of being young and doing whatever you want but at the same time also knowing the past is gone and knowing you could never have it again, leaving you to just look back at the past. Hall’s words convey the strength of friendship and the power it has, and through shared experiences there builds a bond and a solidarity that makes you think it can last forever.
The writing is sublime in as much as it is simple and uncomplicated, and the story is so well told it really does become a part of you. As you read you are pulled into these lives almost immediately; the experiences that Nick and his friends have are so real and you know them and pity them and celebrate them intensely. The same can be said of all of Hall’s characters, even the briefest appearances and mentions are able to convey a wonderful understanding of who they are as people and you truly feel like you know these characters.
The story is told through Nick, who alters narrating between the present day and thinking about the past. It is also told out of chronological order which is a brilliant move by Hall as it only adds to the reading experience by flitting around and going backwards and forwards and having memories within memories. Hall blends these different memories and moments together fantastically, he knows when to stop and move on and how to link back to the scenes that have been left unfinished or to slowly reveal hints and clues as he goes.
The amount of forethought and small details that you brush off as insignificant is wonderful, you never know what may be important later and Hall hides it brilliantly. These small details are scattered throughout and seem inconsequential but everything is connected and Hall demonstrates that everything they do and the people they meet are important and do have an impact on their life in some way.
There is an initial mystery that surrounds the story but as the novel progresses this fractures off into multiple issues and as a result shows the complexities of friendships and relationships and life, yet another thing Hall depicts brilliantly.
The best way I could describe this book is that it is beautiful and tragic and wonderful all at once and it is a heartwarming story about being young and in love. From the early pages I wanted to give this book five stars and I am so extremely pleased that the same could be said when I closed the book. A truly amazing bittersweet story.
In celebration of the upcoming release of Summer’s Gone I have ONE PAPERBACK copy to giveaway (Australia only I’m afraid)
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Entries close 28th February at 11:59pm AEDST.
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All Your Bits and Pieces Needs