02/02/2011

The Summer House (by Mary Nichols)

It was, I suppose, a happy mistake that led me to find Mary Nichols' books. I was browsing the selection of books that Amazon decided to recommend to me last autumn, and spotted a couple by this writer. I was delighted... because one of my favourite authors is Mary Sheepshanks who also writes under her maiden name of Mary Nickson. However I had only vaguely remembered the latter name, and somehow thought that she was Mary Nichols. So without any research - other than a quick look at the reviews - I put the two recommended books on my wishlist. And received them both from a relative for Christmas.

I was slightly surprised to find that they were both historical novels, since the ones I have read by Mary Nickson are contemporary, but still looked forward to reading them. It was only when I was about half-way through the first one - enjoying 'The Summer House', but not recognising the style at all - that I suddenly realised I had got the name wrong. Still, since I did like it, very much, I'm pleased to have found another prolific writer!

The story opens in 1918. Young Lady Helen, whose husband is away in the war, starts an affair which leaves her pregnant. She's whisked away to stay with an aunt, and when the baby is born, she is forcibly taken away for adoption. The baby's father does not stay in touch, and when Helen's husband does not return from the war she remains single, hurting inside and longing for love. She becomes estranged from her relatives who live nearby, and is very lonely.

Most of the book takes place in the 1940s, during World War II, and features Laura who has been brought up by loving parents, and works as a nurse. Her father died when she was younger, but she's close to her mother, Anne. She is about to be married... then something happens which changes her life forever.
Gradually the connections become clear, the past unfolds in sometimes unexpected ways, and the remainder of the book is about healing, love, and acceptance. Set with the backdrop of the war, and (I assume) historically accurate, it's nonetheless a gentle, character-driven novel with some very moving sections at the end.

There are a lot of minor characters in the book but I didn't have too hard a time keeping them clear in my mind, and Laura is a likeable young woman.

I would recommended this novel to anyone who likes light historical fiction set in this era. It is still in print on both sides of the Atlantic.

Review copryight Sue's Book Reviews, 2nd February 2011

No comments: