The Last Days of Summer [review]

The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan

She can forgive. They can’t forget.
After ten years in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, Jasper Curtis returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters. Lizzie does not know who she’s letting into her home: the brother she grew up loving or the monster he became.
Teenage Katie distrusts this strange man in their home but eleven-year-old Joanne is just intrigued by her new uncle.
Jasper says he’s all done with trouble, but in a forgotten prairie town that knows no forgiveness, it does not take long for trouble to arrive at their door.

The Last Days of Summer
[My Review]
The Last Days of Summer was completely different to what I was expecting. I thought it would be a tale about family and the town learning to forgive a man who seems to have truly sinned in the past. It is sort of about this, but it’s darker than I expected, and there isn’t much forgiving going on!Set in a rural town in America, Jasper returns from a long stint in prison for committing what seems to be a pretty terrible crime, something no one in the town will forgive him for   (though at this point we’re not sure what), apart from, it seems, his sister, who takes him in on his release to live with her and her two daughters, teenager Katie and younger sister Joanne. The story unwinds what happened all those years ago, giving little clues here and there so the reader begins to see what their uncle has done. I enjoyed this element of suspense and mystery, and read on mainly because I wanted to find out what exactly had happened.I have to say, I absolutely hated Jasper. I know the author probably didn’t expect readers to like him but I truly, madly (& deeply!) hated him. He was a horrible, horrible man, one that I expected would be revealed as not as awful as we thought the more the novel went on. This was definitely not the case, or not for me at least. Not only did he viciously attack a woman he was seeing (you get the gist of what he did pretty early on so I’m not really spoiling anything, but nevertheless I won’t go into specifics in case I ruin the mystery element of the novel), but he seems completely unrepentant and seems to see every woman, including this in his own family, as potential targets. “His eyes go over her [Katie] for what feels like too long, and she doesn’t like it.”
In fact, there’s a whole medley of nasty characters in The Last Days of Summer. To start with I felt that the townspeople had the right idea: why would they want to forgive someone as awful as Jasper? Their actions later on dissolved any agreeable feelings I may have had towards them, though.
I often found myself frustrated with Lizzie- how could she not see what Jasper was really like? I suppose it demonstrates human’s willingness to forgive, to want to believe that someone has changed, if they’re family and therefore someone meaningful to them. Lizzie risked having him in her house with her daughters because he was family- if he was anyone else’s brother, no doubt she’d never have considered it.
I felt desperately sorry for Jasper’s nieces, Katie and Joanne. Though Katie makes some stupid teenage decisions based on a misguided attempt to impress her controlling boyfriend, she is a good person – and Joanne is far too young to realise how truly horrible people can be. This book really puts them, and their mother Lizzie (who is Jasper’s sister) through it, and I almost felt it was too much- too gritty and horrible- at times.
The story is fairly slow paced really, which suits their seemingly provincial, small town lives, though picks up a bit towards the end. It’s not at any point boring, but at times I felt my concentration waning a little. The writing is definitely skilled, but in this instance the story didn’t hugely grip me.
[Rating: 3/5]
The Last Days of Summer will be published in the UK by Penguin UK on the 5th May.
Many thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy of this novel in return for an honest review

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