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Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Summer Country by Lauren Willig

The Summer Country by Lauren Willig
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062839022
Hardcover, $26.99, 464 pages
Historical fiction author Lauren Willig usually writes books set in England. While on vacation in the Caribbean, she visited a museum and heard a story about a plantation fire that killed the Portuguese ward of the owner. The child was neither his ward, nor Portuguese, but was his daughter by an enslaved woman. Willig wanted to know what happened to the mother. Did she live there too? Was she able to claim and care for her child? Did she die in the fire as well?

She turned this story into her latest book, The Summer Country, a book she lovingly refers to as 'the Barbados book.' Set in two time periods, 1812 and in 1854, where we meet Emily, a young vicar's daughter who travels from her home in England to Barbados, where she finds that she has inherited a sugar plantation from her grandfather. No one even knew he had a sugar plantation.

Emily finds the plantation is burned down and in terrible ruins, and she is discouraged. The family that owns the plantation next door wants to buy the plantation from her, and although they seem to be very welcoming to her and her brother, when she hesitates to sell they turn unfriendly.

Arriving in Bridgetown, Emily and her brother Adam meet Nathaniel, a black doctor who lives with his white aunt and uncle. Nathaniel invites Emily to visit the British Royal Infirmary where he works, and she is intrigued.

Emily and Nathaniel are attracted to each other, and when a cholera epidemic hits the island, Emily pitches in to help, much to the consternation of her brother. The cholera epidemic actually happened at that time, and it plays a role in the story.

In 1812, we find out more about the plantations and the mystery of how Emily's grandfather's plantation came to become abandoned and burned down. (This is where the Portuguese ward comes into play.)

Willig's research is so impeccably detailed, you feel like you have been dropped right into 19th century Barbados. You can feel the heat, smell the flowers, and taste the food. My husband and I have spent time in Barbados, and the history of the island is so prominent, more so than any other Caribbean island. The British influence is still very visible, and Willig brings the history of the island to the forefront of her incredible story. (Lauren Willig has a book club reading guide on her website and it's filled with insight on the writing of The Summer Country. It's fascinating, and you can find it here.)

You'll find yourself lost in The Summer Country, and I enjoyed seeing how Emily took charge and asserted herself, even over the objections of her brother and the times she lived in. You're torn between racing through the story to find out what happened at the burned-out plantation and wanting to savor the atmospheric details and remarkable writing. The epilogue is the perfect ending to a magnificent book. Historical fiction fans should put The Summer Country on their summer reading list. I highly recommend it.
Lauren Willig at Barnes & Noble

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Lauren Willig's tour. The rest of her stops are here:

Instagram Features

Thursday, June 6th: Instagram: @tarheelreader
Saturday, June 8th: Instagram: @theunreadshelf
Sunday, June 9th: Instagram: @giuliland
Monday, June 10th: Instagram: @writersdream
Monday, June 10th: Instagram: @somekindofalibrary

Review Stops

Wednesday, June 5th: BookNAround
Thursday, June 6th: A Chick Who Reads
Friday, June 7th: Reading Reality
Monday, June 10th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, June 12th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Thursday, June 13th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, June 17th: Read Like a Mother
Tuesday, June 18th: Into the Hall of Books
Thursday, June 20th: bookchickdi
Friday, June 21st: Always With a Book
Wednesday, June 26th: Laura’s Reviews
TBD: Tuesday, June 4th: Instagram: @readingmama_reviews

1 comment:

  1. Wow- what a stunning review! I am so glad you enjoyed this and though I am not a historical fiction gal, I have this one on my list because of all the lovely reviews I've seen. Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours