Title: The Summer of Secrets
Author: Barbara Hannay
Published: July 30th 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Australian, Contemporary, Romance, Rural
Rating: 4 stars
Sydney journalist Chloe Brown is painfully aware that her biological clock isn’t just ticking, it’s booming. When her long term boyfriend finally admits he never wants children, Chloe is devastated. Impulsively, she moves as far from disappointment as she can – to a job on a small country newspaper in Queensland’s far north.
The little town seems idyllic, a cosy nest, and Chloe plans to regroup and, possibly, to embark on single motherhood via IVF. But she soon realises that no place is free from trouble or heartache. The grouchy news editor, Finn Latimer, is a former foreign correspondent who has retreated after a family tragedy. Emily, the paper’s elegant, sixty-something owner, is battling with her husband’s desertion. Meanwhile, the whole town is worried when their popular young baker disappears.
As lives across generations become more deeply entwined, the lessons are clear. Secrets and silence harbour pain, while honesty and openness bring healing and hope. And love. All that’s needed now is courage…
Mystery, history, town secrets and romance all feature in The Summer of Secrets, the latest novel from Barbara Hannay. Hannay is a consistent author, who can be relied upon to produce well written, perfectly situated and intriguing novels. The Summer of Secrets is no exception and this book was a welcome reading companion this past week.
At the core of The Summer of Secrets is Chloe Brown, a journalist and a woman who yearns for a child of her own. Chloe is in a committed and long-term relationship, but when she introduces the subject of starting a family with her boyfriend, he promptly decides that their relationship is not headed in the same direction. Naturally, Chloe is shocked and in order to try to come to terms with this devastating turn of events, Chloe takes a new job in the country. The little country town of Burralea, located in far north Queensland, is the just the tonic Chloe needs. Burralea is secluded and picturesque. It also offers Chloe time to think about her next course of action in her desire to have a family. No sooner has Chloe settled into the way of things when more trouble and drama comes her way. She immediately clashes with Finn, the local newspaper editor, who has secrets of his own. While Emily, the owner of the newspaper is suffering from the after effects of her husband’s abandonment. Everyone in the town is placed on high alert when the local baker vanishes. Hannay is the master of Australian sagas and this new offering links different people across an expanse of time and place. Burralea emerges as a place of sanctuary, where those can come to regroup, overcome pain and make plans for the future.
I feel confident in claiming that I am up to date with Barbara Hannay’s novels. Earlier this year I read her previous release, The Country Wedding and I adored it. It brought a smile to my face when I realised one of the back characters featured in this novel, Finn Latimer, is placed in the spotlight in The Summer of Secrets. I do need to make it clear though that there is no prerequisite to read The Country Wedding in order to enjoy The Summer of Secrets. This novel definitely has the power to stand on its own two feet.
Barbara Hannay has plenty on offer in her new release. The Summer of Secrets is an involving novel that moves between the past and the present, with a sense of ease. The pages are filled with secrets, emotion, drama, full lives and heart stopping moments. Flashbacks provide an insight into the life of one of the pillars of the community of Burralea, Izzie. The history of Izzie’s past has to be the highlight of The Summer of Secrets. I’m sending much praise and appreciation to Barbara Hannay for her work in this area. It is well researched and fascinating to read. Anyone with a passing interest in the role of pilots, especially female based pilots during World War II will love this narrative segment.
In terms of the current day contemporary characters, these are a well chosen set. Chloe had a great girl next door feel and this presentation of character enabled me to connect every easily with Chloe. I felt her pain, confusion and swirling emotions. I also desperately wanted Chloe to be happy in all aspects of her life, especially in fulfilling her desire to have a family. Chloe is paired against Finn, Hannay’s returning character from The Country Wedding. Finn is a fairly normal Aussie bloke. At first he appears quite ill-tempered, but there are reasons for this, which Hannay takes the time to outline during the course of her novel. Finn’s character study was one of the enjoyable aspects of this novel. Backing up Hannay’s two present day leads are a collection of secondary characters that vary in age and circumstance. Burralea is a small town, but it is full of colourful personalities that I enjoyed reading about.
Barbara Hannay always takes romance in her stride, she seems to effortlessly conjure up situations her characters must face in the love department with a sense of ease. I enjoyed all the romance sequences contained in The Summer of Secrets. I especially liked the hint of second chance love. It offers the reader plenty of hope and guarantees that we leave The Summer of Secrets with warmth in our heart.
As a keen follower of the author of The Summer of Secrets, Barbara Hannay, I have read a couple of author interviews on this book. If you have an interest in the stunning and authentic Aussie setting base of this novel, I encourage you to do a search of the real life town of Yungaburra, which was the inspiration for The Summer of Secrets. It will help build a clear picture in your mind of this fascinating site, in which the action of The Summer of Secrets plays out. Although I know Hannay was challenged by the process this novel, she did have fun with it and the end product is well worth her efforts. The Summer of Secrets is a warm novel that is the ideal accompaniment on these still cool nights.
The Summer of Secrets by Barbara Hannay was published on 30th July 2018 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Summer of Secrets, is book #105 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge