Life & Style
Our February book club choice is Summertime, the debut novel from author Vanessa Lafaye. Born in Tampa, Florida, she's now based in the UK and was inspired to write Summertime by the real life events of one of the most unforgettable storms in US history.
Florida, 1935. The residents of Heron Key are preparing for the 4th July barbecue, little realising how much their world is about to change.
Domestic helps Missy and Selma are dismembering the alligator that tried to snatch the baby Missy was watching, before they can get ready for the party. Henry, a returned soldier from the First World War, is hoping that his comrades in his construction team will not disgrace themselves in front of an already fiercely judgemental community. Hilda Kincaid is squeezing into a frock, wondering how she will face another night of public humiliation as her husband toys with Doreen from the golf club. And Sheriff Dwayne Campbell - a laughing stock since his wife gave birth to their mixed-race son - is squaring up to deal with any troublemakers and prove he can control the town, even if he can’t control his wife...
Tensions simmer at the party and in the early hours of the morning, a woman is found half-beaten to death. As whites turn on blacks, the finger of suspicion points at one man. And while wild accusations are made, far over the Atlantic a tropical storm changes direction and turns towards Florida, increasing in speed by the second. As the hurricane beacons are lit along the Keys, the town's folk prepare themselves as they always do, unaware that the approaching storm is beyond anything they have ever experienced. In one night, Heron Key will change for ever...
Summertime is a beautifully seductive novel, both a
glorious love story and a fascinating slice of social history. It is a powerful, fictionalised account of the most intense hurricane to ever make landfall in the US - the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane - which left hundreds dead and prompted national outrage. Summertime also highlights the shocking story of the abandonment of black American soldiers returning home from the First World War - events which led Ernest Hemingway to write in protest to President Roosevelt.
Find out more about the history behind the novel on Vanessa's website