Review: Last Summer by Kylie Ladd

Title: Last Summer

Author: Kylie Ladd

Publisher: Allen & Unwin August 2011

Synopsis: Rory Buchanan has it all: looks, talent, charisma – an all around good-guy, he’s the centre of every party and a loving father and husband. Then one summer’s afternoon tragedy strikes … and those who are closest to him struggle to come to terms with their loss. Friendships are strained, marriages falter and loyalties are tested in a gripping and brilliantly crafted novel of loss, grief and desire.

Status: Read from September 12 to 13, 2011 — I own a copy {Courtesy Allen & Unwin Australia}

My Thoughts:

Since reading Kylie Ladd’s debut novel After the Fall I’ve been anxiously awaiting her next release. When I finally got my hands on Last Summer I was ecstatic and relieved when from the first line I knew it wasn’t going to be a decision I regretted.

They were making love when Rory died.” p1

With the sudden death of Rory Buchanan, his devastated family and closest friends are faced with the uncomfortable truth of their mortality and themselves. Their grief creates fractures in their relationships as they reassess their priorities and struggle to deal with their loss. Unflinchingly honest, Last Summer has a deceptively spare style that is nevertheless loaded with subtext. This novel is not only about death, but life and how we go on living despite a tragic loss. It is a universal theme, a common human experience that we all confront at some time and this novel will make you think.

Last Summer unfolds from the perspective of nine characters, each of whom have been affected in different ways by the tragedy. One of the things I find most impressive about Ladd’s writing is that her characters live within the pages of her novel. They eat, shower, bicker, make love, go to work, arrange childcare; these ordinary events contrasting the tedium of living against their complex emotional lives. It is often said that no two people react to an event in the same way yet we many of us consider that there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way, particularly where grieving is concerned. Last Summer perfectly illustrates the individuality of response to crisis and forces the reader to examine their own attitude.
Ladd’s background in psychology no doubt assists her in creating well rounded, authentic characters who are both familiar and extraordinary. The ordinary group of middle class suburbanites in Last Summer are as emotionally complicated as any individual you know.
One of the reasons that this novel resonates so strongly with me is because there are some eerie parallels to my own experiences. The death of a friend from an aggressive cancer (barely 2 months after her diagnosis) in my late twenties had a similar impact to that which Ladd writes about, on our group of friends. In the aftermath of her passing a couple split, another nearly destroyed her marriage by having an affair, three of the eight women in our circle changed careers (we had all worked together at the time), two couples moved away. The loss changed us all as we were forced to confront our mortality and examine our life choices.

Entertaining and compelling, Last Summer is the best contemporary fiction novel I have read all year with it’s insightful examination of life and death in the Australian suburbs. I’m already greedy for Kylie Ladd’s next book.

Read an extract

Available to purchase

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Sep 17, 2011 @ 13:13:19

    Kylie is a superb author, and her work is so beautifully subtle through and through–so glad to see that nothing has changed here! Her first book was one of my top reads of last year, and this review has inspired me to ask for a review copy of Last Summer 🙂 Hopefully I’ll have a review up soon!



  2. The Australian Bookshelf
    Sep 20, 2011 @ 18:38:52

    This looks like a great read! I don’t often see you rating 5 stars so when I do I take a lot of notice and know that it will be a fantastic book! I will add this book to my TBR list 🙂




  3. Trackback: AWW Feature and Giveaway: Q & A with Caroline Overington « book'd out
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