The Summer We All Ran Away by Cassandra Parkin

The title caught my attention, and then the story pulled me in from the front page.

Davey was running away from home, not quite knowing where he was going, just knowing that had to get away. He tried to escape into a bottle, but that only got him into more trouble, and he finally collapsed on the steps of a big house on the Cornish coast. He thought that he was in trouble again, but he wasn’t. He met the three people who lived there and they told him that he could join them, that he could live there, and that the only condition was that he ask no questions.

18006749It seemed too good to be true, even when Davey that the sensible middle-aged Tom and Kate weren’t a couple, weren’t owners, were simply squatters who had arrived at the same place at the same time. And it seemed incredible that they found a wonderful house abandoned, as if somebody had just stepped out and then never come back.

Priss was the other resident of the house, she was just a little older than Davey, and she was one of the most interesting  and complicated young women I have met in contemporary fiction.  A wonderful mix of brashness and vulnerability; meanness and compassion; confidence and caution.

Tom and Kate’s insistence on not asking questions bothered Priss, and when Davey arrived she talked him into helping her explore the locked rooms and cupboards to try to find out more about them and about the history of the house.

Because, of course, there was another story, set in the same house some years earlier. Jack was a successful musician, but he was troubled and he didn’t like the attention that fame had brought. He retreated to a big house in Cornwall, he met Matilda,  who was quite unlike  the women who moved in his world, and he fell deeply and obsessively in love with her.

The story moves between past and present, gradually revealing the stories of the four people living in the house, and its absent owner.

All of those characters were very well drawn, and as I learned more of their stories I came to understand them better, and to care about what would happen to them. And I appreciated that their stories were distinctive: Davey’s was the most shocking, Priss’s the most intriguing, and Tom’s the most unexpected.

Individually, all of the elements worked. And Cassandra Parkin wrote and constructed her story well; she created a wonderful atmosphere, a fine senses of time and placed; she pulled me right into that house and had me asking so many questions.

But as a whole the story felt just a little contrived, and the I’m afraid that twist and the conclusion were rather predictable. Such a disappointment after characters and storylines that could have been predictable were anything but.

And that’s why I’d still say that this is a very promising debut, and Cassandra Parkin is an author I’ll be watching.

2 responses

  1. I loved her take-down of Fifty Shades of Grey (Lighter Shades of Grey), which managed to reveal enough and make it sound so ridiculous that I feel both that I know all about FSOG and also need never find out any more! She is a very funny writer.

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