Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly

The back cover of Elizabeth Kelly's The Last Summer of the Camperdowns proclaims it is an "uproarious coming-of-age story brimming with old money, young love, and astonishing family secrets." I agree with everything except the uproarious part. Some parts were funny, but there was a creepy guy who terrorized a twelve-year-old girl into silence surrounding the possible murder that she witnessed and I felt more horrified than amused as I turned the pages.

Riddle Camperdown is telling the story, looking back on the eventful summer of her twelfth year at her home in Cape Cod. Riddle was a mess of hormones at that time. Her contrariness mystified her parents and herself. She was constantly skirmishing with her mother, a former actress: "My mother offered up her best falsely conciliatory gaze -- imagine a spitting cobra composing a thank-you note written in venom."

Riddle definitely had my sympathy. Her father encouraged her to be a tough girl, while her mother expected decorum. The adults around Riddle teased her about her crush on 19-year-old Harry Devlin, whose younger brother had recently disappeared. Harry, meanwhile, was perplexed by Riddle's behaviour.

"Obviously Harry had never before met a teenage girl hell-bent on persuading the world that she moonlighted as a Screaming Eagle. Taking a deep breath, I worked to stave off lumbering waves of personal mortification. It was like trying to swallow bleach. Then something darker than mere embarrassment settled inside me. I remembered what it was that had caused me to pass out."

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns is an engaging novel with an eccentric cast of characters, great dialogue, and a twisty plot of new and old mysteries.

Readalike: Seating Arrangements (Maggie Shipstead).

No comments: