I loved reading Judy Blumes books as a child. They were a bit risqué, exciting, real. They were about kids you could relate to, kids growing up, kids with issues and problems many of us shared. Her books were a part of my childhood.
A few years ago, Judy Blume started publishing books for adults, but somehow, I never got round to buying or reading them. Then my friend Hannah recommended the novel Summer Sisters, not just as a casual Youd like this but in a way which radiated her own infectious love and enthusiasm for the book. So I read it, finishing it around 1am this morning. I am very glad I did.
The novel follows the lives of two American women Victoria Vix Leonard and Caitlin Somers from 1977 until 1996. You see them grow up from twelve to thirty-something and you become lucky observers, able to watch what happens in their lives and those of their friends and family.
For although plenty of things happen, this novel is more about characters. There arent any big sensationalist headline events no murder mystery or apocalyptic scenario. Kids grow up and have relationships; their parents split up and remarry; they get jobs, study, and travel, have sex and make new friends. But its fascinating!
The characters soon become real and you care about them and want to know what they are going to do and how everythings going to turn out. As in real life, there are times of humour and happiness, times of sadness and tears. Sometimes fiction can be lazy and an author will conveniently tie up all the loose ends in the last couple of chapters, so the hero marries the heroine and they all live happily ever after. As we all know, this isnt always the truth and Judy Blume is content to write about life in a realistic way we can all recognise.
The novel concentrates on the relationship between Victoria and Caitlin, who seem to be opposites in many ways. Caitlin is from a wealthy background, while Vixs family are poorer. Caitlin is beautiful, confident and charismatic. Vix is quieter, clever but rather insecure and shy. She feels in awe of Caitlin and when she is invited by her family to spend the summer with them in their second home by the sea, she is thrilled and excited, but very surprised.
During their summer and subsequent summers there, Vix gets to know Caitlins parents Lamb and Phoebe and her brother Sharkey. She finds herself becoming a part of a family in a different way to her own home. Her mother Tawny isnt very happy or maternal and she has a strange relationship with Vixs father, Ed, who is very quiet and unassuming. Tawny has three other younger children Nathan (who is in a wheelchair), Lanie and Lewis but seems to have more feelings for the Countess who she looks after.
The two girls go through puberty together, sharing their sexual feelings and developing their own code, as they discover The Power and The Package! They become their alter egos, Vixen and Cassandra, pledging NBO to Never Be Ordinary!
Victoria and Caitlin soon become integrated into the island community and often go round with two older local lads called Von and Bru. But as the girls grow up, many things change. Caitlin and Victoria get on well when they are together, but its a bizarre friendship in some ways and there are times when they seem destined to head off in opposite directions. Will their growing up finally split up the Summer Sisters once and for all? Or will their friendship prevail?
This is a novel you enjoy, live and I suspect remember. Although the main characters live ordinary lives in many respects, the novel is never boring. It is a well-paced story and you want to keep reading it to discover what happens next. I especially loved Victoria, but all of the characters were well-developed and easy to picture evidence of a good author! and you are interested in how things will turn out for everyone.
Although there are lots of different characters in this book, it isnt confusing at all and you can easily follow what is happening. I was also pleased that you find out how everyone gets on with updates throughout the book, but cleverly interwoven in a way that seems completely natural and unobtrusive. I was glad to see the author brought the novel to a satisfying, but unpredictable, conclusion.
I was nervous about writing this review, because I loved the book and felt I couldnt do justice to it. I know this is nowhere near my best book review, but what can you say about a novel thats wonderful? I loved it from start to finish and Judy Blumes style is perfect for this kind of book engaging, easy to read and memorable. I am now hoping to read her other adult fiction titles which is further proof.
So Ill let the book speak for itself. Buy it, borrow it, read it for yourself. Ill be surprised if you dont like it. I loved it.
SUMMER SISTERS by Judy Blume
Cover price £5.99
Published by PAN
NOTE - Just started reading another of her adult fiction - 'Wifey' - but it's not as good as this one!
Back in 1999 I was at a UMIST open day. Half way through we decided to skip the rest of the talks and tours and go shopping, and it was during a quick browse in the Arndale Centre’s WH Smiths that I came across this book. At this point in my life I usually bought books online as it was cheaper (and I still do as it still is) but I needed something to read on the train back to Blackpool so I bought this on a whim having enjoyed all of Blume’s other books. Summer Sister’s is somewhere between Wifey and Forever in terms of target audience, but it is a book which can be enjoyed by many. Caitlin and Vix are as different as night and day – Caitlin is out going, mad (in a good way), whose parents are divorced and who lives with her mother whilst attending a posh private school. Vix is shy and reserved, and one of 4 children of slightly hard up parents. One thing I immediately objected to with this book was the names – surely Caitlin’s more of a vix than Vix is (or maybe that’s the point). The book follows the two as the meet, become friends and grow up. For a “honeymoon period” they do everything together – they go on holiday to Caitlin’s father’s beach house every summer, they discover boys (and try to avoid Caitlin’s annoying brother and his friend), they learn the meanings of rude words from her father’s “erotic” books.... As they get older they even get jobs together, cleaning the houses of wealthy families on the island. Gradually though, things begin to change. The girls inevitably begin to grow apart, especially when Vix goes off to her Ivy League school and Caitlin gets restless. The main theme throughout the book is friendship, and the trials and tribulations thereof. The book is not as explicit as some of Blume’s books because in this one sex is not the main topic – it’s there, but only in the background. Many other topics
are addressed in this book – there are for example references to politics, disabilities and death. We have teenage pregnancy, divorce, adultery, single parent families and, to a lesser extent, the great “class divide” although we do have the good clever poor girl succeeding in the end (and getting her man) not the privileged rich one who doesn’t work for anything and increasingly gets wander lust. As would be expected from such an author, the book is wonderfully written and the characters real. Just like everyone else, they have plenty of problems. You could even argue that they have more than average. This is an incredibly moving book, and a compelling read which is truly impossible to put down. The ending is unexpected and leaves the reader sitting there, thinking. I cannot stress enough how good this book is – the best I’ve written on for dooyoo by far. My only complaint is that it ends too soon.
I have long been a fan of Judy Blume. I read many of her books whilst I was a teenager - including the infamous 'Forever'. However, Summer Sisters is certainly a 'coming of age' book from Judy. It's a fantastic book for young adults. The story follows the lives of Vix and Caitlin who meet at school and become inseperable. Caitlin comes from a fairly well off family and Vix spends every summer with her at her parent's beach house in Martha's Vineyard...hence, they become 'Summer Sisters'. The story spans many years, and follows their transition from young girls through to women. You learn of their slightly strange friendship, the boys that they know and love, their respective families and basically everyone that comes into contact with them. The way that the book is clever is that there are excerts from everyone's point of view (except Vix and Caitlin themselves). So therefore, you learn how other people feel about the girls and encounter a style of writing that I had never experienced in any other book. You really get to feel what everyone involved must be feeling. I can never start this book without reading it right through to the end in almost a single session. It is superbly written and truly one of my all time favourites. It is best suited I think to people in their late teens/early 20s (an age group I am sadly leaving!) though I'm sure it could be enjoyed by many ages. It is truly a 'woman's' book - I don't think men would enjoy it too much, but if your other half has a copy, you might want to try it! Let me know!
The story of two women from very different families who meet on the brink of adolescence and spend the povotal summers of their coming-of-age years as companions on Martha's Vineyard.