Book Club BanterReview of 'The Last Summer of the Camperdowns' by Elizabeth Kelly
This is Elizabeth Kelly's second novel (after the critically acclaimed "Apologize,Apologize!"). In "The Last Summer of the Camperdowns," she continues to explore in her witty, wonderful way the dysfunctional American family.
The story circles around Riddle, the 12-year-old daughter of Greer, a stunningly beautiful and extremely witty ex-movie star. Add to the mix Greer’s neighbor and best friend Gin Whiffet (kooky collector of taxidermy), and Greer’s husband Godfrey (charismatic, headstrong, witty), and you end up with an extremely interesting cast of characters.
Riddle is a loveable tomboy who has a passion for books and horses. When she witnesses something too horrible to process, it has the effect of casting a pall over her entire summer, and ultimately her life. The mysterious character Gula Nightjar (how’s that for an ominous sounding name?) is at the center of the event and he is as sinister as his name implies.
The lively banter between all the characters is a delight and the mystery that surrounds the story moves the novel along with just enough suspense to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. The central theme of the novel is that hiding secrets never bodes well.
One horrifying act leads Riddle to bury a secret deep inside her which has the ripple effect of leading to more secrets, more fear and eventually a tragic conclusion. And although the awful event that Riddle witnesses does add a dose of darkness to the story, Kelly is adept at adding in just enough humor and levity to balance it out.
When interviewed by Red Book magazine, Kelly said that “comedy and drama are linked in life and in this novel and in all of its many and varied incarnations, it is its own living breathing world… recognizable but askew, like life tipped on its side and slightly hysterical.”
Like "Apologize, Apologize!," "The Last Summer of the Camperdowns" is a very raucous and lively story. Kelly said in the Red Book interview, “I’m not a fan of quiet fiction. My novels are like my gardens. Someone once looked at my front border and asked me if I was having a nervous breakdown.” This is a lively novel that has poignant and thought provoking moments as well.
Sample Discussion Questions:
1) What is the significance of the title?
2) Did the main character change in any way throughout the story?
Quick Tip for Book Clubs:
If December is too busy for your club members to read a book, consider watching a movie (based on a book) together and emailing each other your thoughts.
Brought to you by the Haywood County Library and Blue Ridge Books