Review: Last Summer by Kylie Ladd

Last Summer

by Kylie Ladd

Rory Buchanan has it all: looks talent, charisma – an all round good guy, he’s the centre of every party and a loving father and husband. Then one summer’s afternoon, tragedy strikes. 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 about loss, grief and desire.

Told from the points of view of nice of the people who are mourning Rory, this riveting novel presents a vivid snapshot of contemporary suburban Australia and how we live now. Marriage, friendship, family – all are dissected with great psychological insight as they start to unravel under the pressure of grief. The characters live on the page; their lives are unfolded and their dilemmas are as real as our own.

Last Summer is a stunning novel about loss – that terrible pain of losing a husband, brother or friend – but also all those smaller losses that everyone must face: the loss of youth, the shattering of dreams, the fading of convictions and the change on our notions of who we thought we were. It is also about what comes after the loss: how we pick up the pieces and the way we remake our lives.

This is a book about death, loss and life. It is a book that confront’s these issues head on, leaving no emotional stone unturned, you will find yourself both crying and laughing, rejoicing and commiserating, as well as celebrating.

The story is based around Rory’s untimely death, and told from nine close friends points of view. Each of these individual stories are told bravely and honestly. They each have their own distinctive voice, and they explain how Rory’s death and the close lives that they lead together has affected them. Essentially the entire book is set in and around the Yarra Yarra cricket club, where all of the families spend the majority of their time, even though cricket is one of the main elements of the book, it is by no means the focus, as you are reading about the game and the club, the story of all of the friends relationships shines through (which is the real heart of the book).

The characters include Rory’s wife Colleen; his best mate Nick (and his wife Laine); his sister Kelly (and her husband Joe – Joe was also Rory’s business partner); James, a childhood friend, and his wife Anita; Pete, a fellow cricketer who has known Rory for the least amount of time (and his wife Trinity).  All have children about the same age, and all live within close proximity to each other and like all friends they can’t help but interfere in each others lives, and judge (which we all do no matter how much we love and respect each other), Kylie Ladd has explored these nuances of relationships with great clarity and understanding.

All of the characters are people who you may meet, or even know ‘in real life’, they all have their own dramas and issues, idiosyncrasies, bad habits, high expectations, lack of communication etc that make us human, and make us complicated, and that make us so interesting to both read and write about.

You may hear this book being compared to The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas but to me there are no comparisons; okay they are both told from different characters (like novellas) and perspectives, both set in Melbourne, and both explore the inner turmoil and complications of relationships and friendships, but the writing style is VASTLY different, to me Kylie Ladd is a far superior author, her writing has strength and purpose but also gentleness and a delicate nature that Christos just could not muster.  I would much rather hear Kylie compared to Jodi Picoult – and I hope that Kylie is able to produce as many books as Jodi…(no pressure Kylie!)

I would highly recommend reading this book, but beware that it is a heart wrencher – especially during the first part of the book, so if you have experienced loss of any kind be prepared for tears, many many tears. Saying that though, it is also a book about healing, so reading it will help anyone experiencing the pain of loss start on the path of recovery. So do yourself a favour and read it!

Favourite Quote: ‘So,’ he began, bracing himself, ‘do you want to talk about your fight with Joe?’ ‘ Not at all,’ replied Kelly, sounding surprised. “I want to talk about Rory.’ Page 253.

Published by Allen and Unwin

Recommended Retail Price $29.99 (trade paperback)

Recommended Age: 18+

My Rating: 4.5/5

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