About the Book
October,1946. The Red Cross escorts a group of child refugees from Europe to England. Among them is Brigitta – a serious, silent figure with worn clothes and a small cardboard suitcase containing a single grey glove. Arriving in London, Brigitta breaks from the group and runs . . .
Brigitta’s mission: to reach Summerland Hall and find the one person who can solve a wartime mystery. But Summerland holds secrets and shadows of its own . . . and perhaps the key to a new life and new beginnings.
An extraordinarily rich tale of love, prejudice, truth and forgiveness, inspired by real events.
Format: Paperback (320 pages) Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication date: 5th September 2019 Genre: Historical Fiction, YA
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Through the character of Brigitta, Summerland brings to life the story of children who survived the Nazi concentration camps or were orphaned by the War and who were brought to Britain as refugees. The reader gradually learns of Brigitta’s traumatic experiences: forced into hiding for fear of persecution as a Jew, sheltering alongside her mother in bomb-damaged buildings, searching for scraps of food.
Arriving at Summerland Hall, a place she was told about by her mother, Brigitta’s wonder at being offered the luxury of jam to stir into her porridge reminds the reader of the contrast with the privations she has suffered. This is also cleverly brought home by Brigitta’s very different reaction from that of the village children to things like men in uniform, fireworks on Bonfire Night or games like Murder in the Dark. ‘The words were ominous, but in England, it seemed murder in the dark didn’t mean watching your neighbours getting shot at three in the morning.’ Ironically, Brigitta recalls being told by her mother during the time they were in hiding to think of it like a game.
Amid the more serious subject matter there are some lovely touches of humour, from the failure of Brigitta’s English/German dictionary to cope with phrases such as Toad in the Hole to the quirky chapter headings representing the unfamiliar foodstuffs Brigitta encounters – Fish-Paste Sandwiches, Bacon Butties, Violet Creams. And anyone of my generation who experienced school lunches may chuckle, as I did, at her impression of being served a plate of liver and onions. ‘The liver was like leather with bits of rubber piping in. […] The onions looked like beige phlegm.’ Sorry, if you were eating your dinner while reading that!
A character I particularly liked was Summerland’s cook, Sophie Rover, for her kindness to Brigitta and her simple philosophy of life that everyone should be well fed and comfortable. As Brigitta sagely observes: ‘If only she had been leader of the Third Reich, not Hitler. Meatuntooveg instead of mass murder, misery and world war.’
When Lady Summer, owner of Summerland Hall, embarks on the restoration of the house following its requisitioning for military use during the war, it seems an analogy for recovery after conflict. It’s as if Brigitta’s arrival has brought new life to the house, such as the rather different kind of musical entertainment at the traditional New Year’s Eve party or Lady Summer’s uncharacteristic hospitality towards the village children. However, Brigitta herself sees only the ghosts of the past.
As Brigitta’s past catches up with her things turn darker and the reader is reminded of the suspicion and recriminations that can linger after conflict and the physical and mental scars caused by war. Finally, the secret that has brought Brigitta to Summerland is revealed, offering the prospect of a different, and perhaps unexpected, future for her and others.
Although aimed at young adults, Summerland is an engrossing, emotional and beautifully crafted story that will engage readers of all ages. I loved it.
I received an advance review copy courtesy of Hot Key Books and Readers First.
In three words: Moving, compelling, uplifting
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About the Author
Lucy Adlington is a writer and clothes historian. Her novels for teenagers, including The Diary of Pelly D, Burning Mountain and The Red Ribbon have been nominated and shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, the Manchester Book Prize, the Leeds Book Prize and the Rotherham Book Award. She tours the UK with dress history presentations and writes history books for adults, including Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2: Ready for Action and Stitches in Time: the Story of the Clothes We Wear.