15751752Reviewed by Colleen Turner

In the summer before the First World War, Clarissa Granville is living the ideal life of a sheltered young woman of rank at her family’s country estate of Deyning. Knowing very little about the world beyond the gates of Deyning, Clarissa has been raised like most women of her class to believe that her future consists of parties, the search for a rich husband and a life raising children and caring for her home. That is until Tom Cuthbert, the housekeeper’s son, arrives at Deyning.

Tom and Clarissa are instantly drawn to each other and enjoy spending languid days walking around the property and discussing everything from books to what they hope for their futures. Coming from two different classes, the two have to keep their budding relationship a secret, especially from Clarissa’s proper mother. Then a war comes to England that turns the country on its head and changes their lives, and the lives of everyone around them, forever.

Over the next nearly 20 years the lives of Tom and Clarissa continue to come together and fall apart again and again. Separated by war, society, duty and so much more these two never lose the love for each other they secretly hold within their hearts. With the world they have always known falling apart around them how will these two ever be able to put the world aside and finally come together? And if they can, what sort of world can they have together given all the secrets and history that follows them?

I absolutely loved The Last Summer! Never being a big fan of romance, this book offers so much more that; while the evolution of Tom and Clarissa’s relationship is center stage, this book will draw in lovers of history or fans of stories of war and its various consequences. Judith Kinghorn has an incredible descriptive skill and really allows the reader to see not just the glitz and glamour of the times but the fear and desperation underneath as well as the loss of innocence for this young, naïve generation and the growth into a more cynical and wary one. And with these changes come changes in their perceptions of the ever changing world around them and the breakdown of the hierarchy of the classes they have always had to live within. I have read books that showed the devastation of war but very rarely do you get both the perspective of the vast amount of young men going off to fight and die and the perspective of the devastated women left behind to live and mourn together.

With all this issues swirling around, our main characters are constantly drawn together and pushed apart again, there bond seeming to have an unbreakable hold on each of their hearts. It is a very poignant relationship that brilliantly highlights the changes happening around them all, and I could not get enough. The supporting characters, especially Clarissa’s mother who is hiding her own secrets, are just as well fleshed out and even Deyning seemed to have its own life and was forced to change over the years just as much as everyone else.

The Last Summer is the sort of book that you can’t put down but you try to do anyways because you just don’t want it to end too quickly. I am very excited to see what the author comes up with next.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by NAL Trade. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.