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I came across this book by accident, attracted to it by the reader, whose work in radio drama I'm familiar with. From the very beginning I was drawn into the novel's slow burn. MacLeod does not immediately lay out the 'alternate' history: that Britain has lost the Great War, suffered economic meltdown (a wheelbarrow of notes would buy a cabbage) and turned to a very English kind of fascism. Instead, we follow Geoffrey Brook (or is it Griffin Brooke-with-an-e?) as he secretly pursues his desires and persists in his surprising academic success. Sinister developments - the trashing of a suburban house and disappearance of seemingly ordinary citizens, the blank on the map where trains pulling cattle-wagons shuffle towards an unknown destination - are described coolly, steadily. As readers, our emotions are never exploited, our sense of 'real' history never assumed. Steve Hodson's narration is by turns wryly ironic and restrainedly emotional; calm and warm, distant and analytical. Some of the scenes must have been extremely difficult to read: they are certainly difficult to listen to. I finished the book, with its many astonishing twists, feeling that it should be compulsory reading for all historians, all politicians, all citizens who talk about 'British values' as if they were immutably wholesome.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Well, what a good book! And beautifully read. I've never read this author before and I've never heard of this book. I downloaded it on the strength of the reviews. What a good story idea based on a strongly drawn central character. This character simply accepts that his England is the way it should be and tells his personal story, which is in itself interesting. He lives in a dictatorship where - almost without him realising it - he has been protected and given a sort of secluded privilege. Gradually, the (alternative history) England he lives in becomes clear to the reader and the truth of what has been happening around him emerges.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
The caveat first: the protagonist of this magnificent alternate history--set in a world where England rather than Germany suffered humiliating defeat in The Great War and subsequently descends into fascism--is a homosexual. There is some description of sexual acts between two men in this book--and also of absent longing of one man for another. This is not the focus of the book--and the protagonists homosexuality really serves more than anything to emphasize his alienation in a fascist state, but threre it is. if you are very uncomfortable with/have no desire to read about/cannot accept the idea of 'the gays' you should read no further, but mark this review as helpful and move on to find a more suitable book.
That said, I am so glad that this was not enough to scare me off. Because it is without exaggeration that i say that this is possibly the most literary entry in to the genre of mid-century alternate history since Dick's 'Man in High Castle'. I love this genre and i have read all of them that i can find, and this is by far the best that I have read recently. Is it on par with orwell? probably not. But it is on par with 'Man in High Castle' and 'American Pastoral'. Blows out of the water anything that the pulp authors in the genre-turtledove and the rest--have ever written. (And i love and read those as well.)
What truly made this book a treat though was the narration. Steve Hodsons slow British accent was so perfectly suited to the story that it felt more like listening to the protagonist speak than like being read a book. The narration is so perfect, in fact, that i am almost hesitant to suggest the print book to anyone because i don't know how much my sense of the quality of the writing comes from the flawlessness of the narration.
Hope this helps.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I can't believe this book has received so little attention on Amazon and Audible. As of this writing, there are a total of only six reviews on Amazon.
Other reviewers have summarized the book and I don't need to repeat their comments.
Suffice it say that the writing is beautiful. The narration fits the story so perfectly I couldn't imagine it being done any better.. Between the two, I've never seen Amazon's Kindle 'Immersion Reading" concept work any better.
The Summer Isles deserves more exposure.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful