Florida, 1935. Heron Key is a small town where the relationships are as tangled as the mangrove roots in the swamp. Everyone is preparing for the 4th of July barbecue, unaware that their world is about to change for ever. Missy, the Kincaid family's maid and nanny, feels that she has wasted her life pining for Henry, whom she has not seen since he went to fight on the battlefields of France in WWI. Now he has returned with a group of other desperate, destitute veterans on a government works project, unsure of his future, ashamed of his past.When a white woman is found beaten nearly to death in the early hours, suspicion falls on Henry. Old grievances and prejudices threaten to derail the investigation. As the tensions rise, the barometer starts to plummet. The residents think they're ready, and so do the soldiers. They are wrong. Nothing in their experience could prepare them for what is coming. For far out over the Atlantic, the greatest storm ever to strike North America is heading their way...
Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye will be published in hardback on 15 January 2015 by Orion, and is the author's debut novel.
Set in the fictional Florida town of Heron Key in the 1930s, Summertime is a wonderful novel that encompasses the power of nature, the horrors of both war and segregation and the resilience of a small community.
Heron Key is the host town to a group of World War One veterans. These men are hardened, sometimes cruel and badly let down. They returned from the battlefields of France, having fought hard for their country to find nothing for them. The compensation that they were promised by the Government didn't appear, they protested to no avail. They find themselves toiling the land on a Government work project, expected to be grateful, but bitter and angry instead. The locals (known as Conches) do not welcome the veterans, they are frightened, wary and suspicious of them.
The veterans join the townfolk for their annual Fourth of July beach barbecue, and things soon turn ugly. There are scores to be settled, especially with Henry, a veteran, but also a native of this small town. Henry is pulled between his allegiance to his men, and his love for his estranged family. When local white woman is discovered, beaten half to death, the veterans are the main suspects, and Henry soon finds himself fighting for more than just his country, he has to fight for his honour, and possibly for his life.
Vanessa Lafaye draws the reader in from the first chapter and has created layers upon layers of tension. The divided community, the racial hatred, the oppressive heat and the threat of the storm constantly make the reader feel uneasy, yet her writing is so compelling and engaging that each page is turned rapidly, to discover just what will happen next.
This is an incredibly powerful story, with deep and very detailed characters. The terrifying and powerful storm is described so well, with details that are both violent and heartbreaking.
A novel of small town America, of racial divide, of the strength of nature and ultimately a love story. Summertime is an exquisite piece of writing; rich, satisfying and beautiful.
My thanks to Gaby from Orion who sent my copy for review.
Vanessa Lafaye was born in Tallahassee and raised in Tampa, Florida, where there were hurricanes most years.
She first came to the UK in 1987 looking for adventure, and found it. After spells of living in Paris and Oxford, she now lives in Marlborough, Wiltshire, with her husband and three furry children.
Vanessa leads the local community choir, and music and writing are big parts of her life.
For more information about the author, visit her website www.vanessalafaye.wordpress.com
Visit her Facebook page Follow her on Twitter @VanessaLafaye