The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen
|The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen|
|Genre: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: An escaped bear somewhere in Scotland and the death of a British diplomat in Germany have an unlikely connection in this engaging novel. As the rest of the family try to heal their wounds, the youngest member, Jamie, does not lose faith for a nano-second - he thinks his beloved father is very much alive.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: May 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
Letty Fleming, recently widowed, is driving her three children hundreds of miles north to a new and hopefully happy life on a remote Scottish island. We get a peek at the personalities of the children straight away: Alba is opinionated and strong-willed, for example. Still young she's managed to acquire a list as long as her arm of her 'hates' in the world - fish, English teachers and doors which are ajar all feature and I didn't care as I couldn't help liking her. At least she knows her own mind. What will she be like when she's grown up, for heaven's sake?
Then there's the youngest of the family, the only boy, Jamie who's aged eight. He's adorable. There's no other word for it. He seems to have some sort of mild-ish learning difficulty and therefore can appear a little strange to outsiders. Adorable strange, that is. But rather than feel sorry for himself in not quite grasping things in the world, he feels sorry for everyone else who is not part of Jamie's world. He applies his own unique logic on a daily basis and it works for him.
Jamie's been informed of his father's recent death very gently by his distraught mother. Letty hopes that her son can comprehend the seriousness of the situation. Jamie's reply after listening intently and throwing in the odd question - Who's going to take me to the circus then? As you can perhaps see Jamie is cocooned in his own, safe, little world but at times his two older sisters (Alba and Georgina) find all this frustrating. If they've to accept the cold, hard facts and grow up a little, why can't Jamie? Letty has her work cut out as a single mother. And as the family unit travel towards their new life, everything about it is fraught with problems, it would seem. Letty even wonders to herself if she's doing the right thing. It's as if she can't think straight at the moment.
We then travel back in time to Nicky Fleming's untimely death. As a diplomat good at his job, he seemed destined for the top. But there are some worrying grey areas surrounding his tragic death. No one knows exactly what happened. Suspicion and rumour start up ... And the Fleming family are rather hastily put on a plane back to the UK.
Pollen's style is very attractive, fluid and very easy to read. The interaction between Letty and the children and also between the children themselves is excellent. But for me personally, Jamie is the star. Pollen has created a delightfully innocent and warm-hearted little boy. Who could not love him, I'm thinking. At times I felt a passing resemblance to the odd character in Diane Chamberlain's books but on the narrative and on language, Pollen edges forward for me.
As the Fleming family settle into their new home and new surroundings and their very different way of life, we meet some cuddly and often funny locals. Islanders. Pollen has it spot-on in terms of their quirkiness (I had a Heilan' grandmother myself). Terrific, feel-good factor stuff. I would happily have read pages and pages of the islanders and their various antics. At one stage I laughed out loud.
Alongside is the story of the bear. Is he real, is he still alive. What - or who is he eating in order to stay alive? The whole bear story, told in snippets, has an almost magical quality about it. And after I'd finished the book, I then read the Epilogue and the information there made the story twice as good. A little bit of fact can go a very long way, shall we say. Enchanting and captivating and recommended.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might like to try Before the Storm by Diane Chamberlain.
The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen is in the Richard and Judy's Summer Reading List 2011.
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