Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review: At the Edge of Summer

Jessica Brockmole

At the Edge of Summer

By Jessica Brockmole
Ballantine, May 2016

About the Book

Luc Crépet is accustomed to his mother’s bringing wounded creatures to their idyllic château in the French countryside, where healing comes naturally amid the lush wildflowers and crumbling stone walls. Yet his maman’s newest project is the most surprising: a fifteen-year-old Scottish girl grieving over her parents’ fate. A curious child with an artistic soul, Clare Ross finds solace in her connection to Luc, and she in turn inspires him in ways he never thought possible. Then, just as suddenly as Clare arrives, she is gone, whisked away by her grandfather to the farthest reaches of the globe. Devastated by her departure, Luc begins to write letters to Clare—and, even as she moves from Portugal to Africa and beyond, the memory of the summer they shared keeps her grounded.

Years later, in the wake of World War I, Clare, now an artist, returns to France to help create facial prostheses for wounded soldiers. One of the wary veterans who comes to the studio seems familiar, and as his mask takes shape beneath her fingers, she recognizes Luc. But is this soldier, made bitter by battle and betrayal, the same boy who once wrote her wistful letters from Paris? After war and so many years apart, can Clare and Luc recapture how they felt at the edge of that long-ago summer?

Bringing to life two unforgettable characters and the rich historical period they inhabit, Jessica Brockmole shows how love and forgiveness can redeem us.

My Review

When Clare Ross’ father dies, she finds herself in the home of family friends, hoping in vain that the artist mother who abandoned her so many years ago will come back to find her. But Clare’s mother never reappears, and Clare is left to fend for herself as an artist and an individual until she meets the son of her hosts, Luc Crépet.

The two embark on a childish summer romance in the French countryside. Luc encourages Clare’s sketching, and Clare inspires Luc with her independence and bravery. Clare is eventually reclaimed by her grandfather and follows him abroad to study dialects. She and Luc write letters, most of which never reach the other.

Luc enters the army when World War I breaks out and he finds himself in the very fields in which he and Clare spent so much time together. Separated by space and experiences, the two never forget each other. That is until Clare finds herself working in a studio that creates masks for disfigured soldiers, and a certain boy from the past, now scarred and damaged, reappears.

Bittersweet, this is the quintessential first love story—the first love you never forget. This story felt uneven at times, but the love story between the main characters is just as riveting as the romance between the two leads in Ms. Brockmole’s earlier work, Letters from Skye. Filled with historical details including the carvings soldiers left in caves during the war, the masks created for mutilated soldiers after the war, and with a characteristic artistic flair, this is a story that will transport you to the French countryside, many years ago.