Friday, 29 May 2015

Reviewed: A Summer of Surprises by Jan Ellis.







A Summer of Surprises was published by Endeavour Press on April 8, 2015.


Thanks to Jan for sending me a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.



A Summer of Surprises is a follow-on novel to the novella An Unexpected Affair, which I really enjoyed. It’s still set in that divine bookshop from the first book which I was pleased to see. The way Eleanor’s love of books (and piles of books) is described will be easy to relate to for a lot of us! Set two years later than An Unexpected Affair, Eleanor is in a relationship with Daniel – a happy relationship but one which maybe isn’t as settled as she had been hoping for. This book sees them face the biggest test of their relationship so far with the appearance of Freya, Daniel’s ex-wife. And when fate appears to be leading Eleanor back to her ex-lover Christophe, will she find where her love is truly meant to be?

In the two Jan Ellis books that I’ve read, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much content she fits into the stories, especially since neither are that long. A Summer of Surprises isn’t a novella, it’s a lot longer than An Unexpected Affair but still at less than two hundred pages. But the story itself is very gratifying and the book feels just as well developed as I would expect from much bigger book. Jan delivers an enticing story with well-drawn characters and I loved the great mixture of characters featured in this book. We’re brought people of all ages from Eleanor’s likeable son Joe, in his early-twenties, to Eleanor herself who is fifty and then to her mother Connie and kind-of granddad Harold, who is in his eighties. There’s such a lively cast here, with endearing friendships and full-of-heart personalities.

Jan writes very real scenarios for her characters which well suits their ages. It would be easy for me to be taken in by the gorgeous setting and want an overly romantic story but, though there is a lovely focus on relationships, for the majority of the main characters to be in around their fifties, other things in life take-over such as families and beliefs and choices and compromise about the rest of their lives. Marriage, divorce, careers and having children has already happened for the most part and so it was interesting to read about what was to come next for these characters. Though they all did have plenty of life left in them!

My favourite part of this book is the bit that genuinely had me laughing out loud – when virtually the whole of Combemouth came out to protest against the plans for a new complex and the impact that would take on local wildlife, in particular, newts. The outfits, the antics… everything was brilliantly written and made so easy to picture. All the characters were so entertaining throughout this book but in particular, Connie’s character had me cracking up the most. I loved her relationship with Harold – how they met on an over-60s dating website, how Connie could wrap him around her little finger, how they knew more about Twitter than most of the younger characters did. They were both two of the most caring, and wittiest, characters in this book and I loved reading about them.

A Summer of Surprises got off to a bright start but it quickly started to focus a little bit too much on the past for me. Towards the beginning, it felt like we were trying to be kept up to speed with learning about the characters’ lives but I thought it was overdone a bit. However, the story soon got going and I then couldn’t fault it for its entertainment level. There’s a light tone to this book throughout although it got a little more serious when it needed to. I thought it provided wonderful warmth and humour and I was completely caught up in the lives of the residents of Combemouth. A little journey to Spain too was beautifully written as Jan describes settings so well you feel like you’re there with the characters. I think I’ll be missing quite a few of them now I’ve finished the book but I did adore the ending and the way things turned out for Eleanor.


Gorgeous, witty story with lots of memorable characters and antics.





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