Summer with my Sister (by Lucy Diamond)

Having read a few of Lucy Diamond’s novels, I like her style and last year decided to put a few more on my wishlist. I spotted that one of them was available very inexpensively in the Amazon Marketplace shortly before I was due to visit the UK, so I ordered it at the end of last Summer. It sat on my to-read shelf for a few months and I’ve read it in the past week.

‘Summer with my Sister’ is about two sisters called Polly and Clare, whose lives have gone in opposite directions since they left home. Polly is a high-flying business manager in London, with a luxury flat and high expenses. Clare lives in a small village in the countryside, where she is single mother to two children, and works as receptionist in a GP’s surgery.

We meet Polly first, racing through her days, with sharp orders and comments to those she sees as inferior. She doesn’t seem to care for anyone, including her relatives, and while she sometimes senses that she’s missing out on something, she’s so taken up with climbing the corporate ladder, looking good and making money, that she has no time or energy for anything else. Then disaster strikes…

Clare, meanwhile, has an equally busy life, fending off an ex-husband, dealing with the day-to-day stresses of strong-willed children, and struggling financially. The sisters only meet at Christmas and have nothing in common, other than a tragedy in their past, which is hinted at in the early chapters.

Unsurprisingly, given the title, the two find themselves in close quarters for a few months in the summer. Clare is a generous and warm-hearted person, more than willing to accommodate her prickly sister, but Polly pushes the boundaries too far. She is selfish, unobservant, and arrogant, and I really didn’t like her. But gradually - inevitably, for this kind of novel - her unpleasantness is worn down.

It’s a character-based story, so the plot isn’t all that important; the story takes place over one summer, although there are flashbacks to twenty years earlier, and the pace is just right for bedtime reading. I often read rather more than I had intended, as I liked Clare and was interested in the story, but it wasn’t hard to put down when I needed to sleep. I liked the way that, as well as Polly turning into a human being, Clare faces difficult challenges and has to make some important decisions.

It’s a story about the importance of communication, about family ties, about priorities and healing, and general family life. I wish there hadn’t been so much bad language; even Clare uses ‘strong’ words at times, which didn’t fit well with her otherwise gentle and caring nature. But, other than that, I enjoyed it very much. It’s not particularly profound, but the characters got under my skin.

It’s the kind of novel that would make great summer reading, for anyone who wants some light women’s fiction.

Recommended. It's not currently in print, but can be found fairly easily second-hand, online or in charity shops.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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