A Certain Summer by Patricia Beard
My rating: almost 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads: "Nothing ever changes at Wauregan.” That mystique is the tradition of the idyllic island colony off the shore of Long Island, the comforting tradition that its summer dwellers have lived by for over half a century. But in the summer of 1948, after a world war has claimed countless men—even those who came home—the time has come to deal with history’s indelible scars.
Helen Wadsworth’s husband, Arthur, was declared missing in action during an OSS operation in France, but the official explanation was mysteriously nebulous. Now raising a teenage son who longs to know the truth about his father, Helen turns to Frank Hartman—her husband’s best friend and his partner on the mission when he disappeared. Frank, however, seems more intent on filling the void in Helen’s life that Arthur’s absence has left. As Helen’s affection for Frank grows, so does her guilt, especially when Peter Gavin, a handsome Marine who was brutally tortured by the Japanese and has returned with a faithful war dog, unexpectedly stirs new desires. With her heart pulled in multiple directions, Helen doesn’t know whom to trust—especially when a shocking discovery forever alters her perception of both love and war.
Part mystery, part love story, and part insider’s view of a very private world, A Certain Summer resonates in the heart long after the last page is turned.
My thoughts: This is barely under 4 stars for my tastes.
This book is a lot of history following WWII that is rarely addressed in other books. On the island of Wauregan, the reader sees a microcosm of society following a horrific period of history. It's summer and the quietly elite return to their summer homes to resume life like before the war. Of course, there are absences felt as some of the men did not return. Also becoming apparent is that the men who did return left a vital piece of themselves behind. The scars left on them are rarely ones that can be seen. This is how we meet Peter, a younger man who spent time in a psych. ward before returning to society. This is looked upon with some abhorrence. Peter must be weak if he had to go to the nut house. Of course, it becomes much more apparent that Peter may be a lucky one to have had the time to talk and process the horrors of the war. The other men simply came home with the expectation they would insert themselves into their old lives, carrying their horrors and memories stoically and without repercussions.
Helen doesn't know if she's a war widow or not. She is raising her teenage son while her husband, Arthur, has been missing in action for the past four years. He joined the OSS. and was reported missing. His best friend, Frank, keeps coming around and he intimates that he will find out more as he is in the infancy of the CIA but it is clear from the onset that something is weird about Frank.
The history and glimpses into the lesser known elements of post war are very well researched and covered in the book. Peter returns with a German Shepherd that was used as a scout in the Pacific. There is a history on the use of dogs in war and how they were retrained afterward. The story shows the complete dedication the dogs had to their trainers and owners. This is touching and interesting.
The story gives snippets of the men on the island and the way they are adapting back into civilian life. Some have turned to liquor. Others have become withdrawn. Most have nightmares and awaken to themselves screaming. All have seen and experienced horrific scenes. Other books describe the horrors of war and specifically this war. This book is really about what happened after the conflict ended.
The story itself was interesting although it didn't grab my attention as much as other books have. At the same time, I really did enjoy knowing more about the post war experiences and the way everybody learned to adapt. I was particularly drawn to any of the characters besides Peter and Max. Even Helen was mostly uninteresting to me.
I did like the ending quite a bit. There is appropriately closure with an open invitation that is accepted but the reader is not privy to the actual scene. But the ending is very appropriate.