Title: A Song for Summer
Author: Eva Ibbotson
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Easy reading, History, Romance
5th sentence, 74th page: For a moment Marek let his mind dwell on Nausicaa, the golden girl at the heart of the Odyssey, who had left her maidens to bring help and succour to the weary Ulysses as he came from the sea.
Ellen never expected the Hallendorf school to be quite so unusual. Her life back in England with her suffragette mother and liberated aunts certainly couldn’t be called normal, but buried deep in the beautiful Austrian countryside, Ellen discovers an eccentric world occupied by wild children and even wilder teachers, experimental dancers and a tortoise on wheels. And then there is the particularly intriguing, enigmatic, and very handsome Marek, part-time gardener and fencing teacher. Ellen is instantly attracted to the mysterious gardener, but Hitler’s Reich is already threatening their peaceful world, and only when she discovers Marek’s true identity and his dangerous mission does Ellen realize the depth of her feelings for him – and the danger their newfound love faces in the shadow of war.
A good romance always includes a guy (or girl) that makes one humungous fuck up, and potentially ruins everybody’s lives. After all, boy meets girl, they fall in love, nothing happens isn’t exactly the greatest of stories. And, this is one of the best ways in which a man completely ruins everything, and yet, you are left gunning for the fantastic characters. And that’s just one part of the plot.
One of the aspects of this story that I love is the history of Ellen’s family and their acceptance for one another. Her mother and two aunts are feminists who burnt their bra and organise rally after rally for the rights of women. They fight tooth and nail to not have to be a housewife, so the fact that Ellen chooses this avenue for her own life is completely shocking to them. partnered with the fact that she is incredibly smart and university educated just seems to drive that knife deeper for her matriarchal family. But, when Ellen makes her desires clear, they accept it and continue to love her. It is little wonder that Ellen herself is filled with so much love and kindness throughout this entire story. After all, this is what family and caring about one another is truly about.
Set in Austria as WWII is breaking out, there is a sense of beauty, innocence and the looming tragedy of war. But, really, what I love the most is Ellen’s capacity to love. She loves the silly teachers at the school she moves to; the unruly children; and the unorthodox family from which she comes. But, it is the fact that she continues to love and accept after tragedy takes her future away. She continues to find a way to take care of her people and those who matter to her, even as her heart continues to shatter into a thousand pieces. And, through it all, she finds a way to have a life that, while it may for a while be devoid of exactly what she wanted, she creates something that matters. Although that sounds a little bereft, there is a happy ending that literally bought a tear to my eyes.
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