Wednesday, December 7, 2016

LaVyrle Spencer - That Camden Summer

When a fiercely independent young woman returns with her three daughters to her hometown of Camden, Maine, after divorcing her philandering husband, she finds a less-than-hospitable welcome. But she's about to show an entire town what one good woman can do.

Comment: This was one of the last books by the author I had to read. I can't remember right now if there is one more in the pile but if my memory is correct, I don't. Anyway, if I'm right, then I'm glad I managed to go through the books of an author and it feels good to get it done.

This book presents us Roberta Jewett, a recently divorced woman, with her three daughters, returning to her hometown Camden to work as a nurse for the county and looking for to teach her daughters all about the area and be able to pay her expenses and give them now what they couldn't have while she was married.
Gabriel Farley is a carpenter and knows how to fix most things. He is hired by Roberta's brother-in-law to repair her house after she arrives and realizes the money she sent was used in a house that looks like it's going to fall over at any point. He doesn't like or understand Roberta at first but as time goes by and the repairs go on, they become friends and forge a relationship that setbacks in the future will prove right and strong...

As always, the author has created quite the drama, but not too heavy or desperate. There is a certain feel in all the author's novels that despite the obstacles and the dramas, the characters always kep a part of them secure against the worst things.
In this novel - so very recognizable as mrs Spencer by its writing style - we have another story that focuses on interesting themes and situations for an historical setting. Although this book is already set in the early decades of the 1900s, it still maintains its historical vibe, especially in terms of society and woman's (almost non existing) rights.

I think the characters are clearly the focus point on the book. Roberta, especially, is quite evidenced to be an independent woman at a time such thing was not seen very well and people would accuse her of many things, something most women wouldn't be recognized as. To me, the idea she was independent and didn't need anyone's help to make her own decisions appealed a lot to my contemporary notions of what it means to be a woman and I kind of liked seeing it in a novel featuring a time when it wasn't considered polite for women to behave like that. Most traits we see in Roberta are positive but then there's the constant repetition of this, and often the way she speaks and treats others, despite all the strength I cheer, seems too much. I like she is fierce and doesn't care about conventions but she ends up being arrogant at times and that makes her too different, too advanced for the time presented. Yes, she could - and should! - look and act independent, but there are ways to show it without making it look like the doesn't belong there.

The other characters all did their work and filed the roles meant for them. I mean, none of them were unpredictable and it kind of looked weak when you can foresee most of the intentions, if not the real actions of them.
Gabriel is an interesting hero, very quiet but he acted when it was necessary. His romance with Roberta wasn't the most romantic story ever, I liked their "courtship" but how they acknowledged their feelings and how they took steps to be together didn't feel very sweet or romantic and I'm not saying this should be sugary but...I expected different things in this regard.

Elfred is a bad character, he has that ungrateful task of being the villain but his character is the most complete one. You feel like you don't need many more elements or scenes with him apart from the minimal for the idea to come across. He does something more or less half way through the story that is despicable and I'd say his punishment should have been recognized by everyone, not just alluded to, so the end seemed weak.

Roberta's daughters don't have much air time and feel like just a prop to further highlight their mother's actions and why she decided to come back. Their whole relationship is good, we learn why Roberta tries but we don't really get to know them.
Gabriel's daughter seems better portrayed, maybe because of her deceased mother's influenced before she met Roberta and her daughters but most scenes with the "kids" were just space fillers, I'd say.

The plot is predictable, so I won't say much about it. I liked that it had a clear purpose, some scenes closer to the end were interesting but there's some lack of connection to the main characters that make me feel more ambivalent about the book. I don't think it's as amazing or romantic as other titles by the author. Maybe this should be read before her best work, so people don't feel disappointed and appreciate her writing more.
Grade: 6/10

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