Sunday 6 March 2011

The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen - Book Review

Title: The Summer of the Bear
Author: Bella Pollen
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic
Publication Date: 20th August 2010
Format: Ebook - PDF
Pages: 448
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: ARC from NetGalley

The Summer of the Bear is a wonderful tale that grabbed my attention from the very first page. The story follows a family (mother, two daughters, one son) as they move to a small island in the Outer Hebrides after their diplomat father falls to his death in Bonn, Germany.

Each chapter gives us the view point of a different character and we learn how each is dealing with the crisis. Letty (mother) tries to understand what really happened to her husband, eldest daughter, Georgie, learns to overcome her grief through romance with a local boy, Alba turns to shoplifting, hiding her grief in anger, while Jamie, having been shielded from knowledge of his father's death, is constantly trying to work out what is happening.

Jamie eventually becomes involved in the hunt for a circus bear that has escaped and is loose on the island. But his reasons for wanting to find it differ from those of the other islanders. In the end, the hunt for the bear may be the one thing that can reunite the family.

This was a beautifully balanced novel and what I loved most about it was the way Bella Pollen has given each of the characters such a unique voice, making them so believably and encouraging reader empathy. Even the bear is portrayed with his own voice and is humanised as he assesses his situation on the island.

The pacing is just right, allowing time for reflection amidst the action and drama and Pollen manages to reveal new aspects at just the right times, which helped to hold my interest from start to finish. I admit I even shed a tear a couple of times because I had become so involved with the characters.

I can highly recommend this book as a good literary fiction read!

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