A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to begin with Eva Ibbotson and then, I realise, it’s here. A sunlit, simple day where breakfast was buttery toast and the world’s open to explore. She’s simple that way, instinctive; food features heavily, sunlight idyllic days too, feature, but also the world is also there underneath it all, ready to be discovered or ran away from. It’s a very particular sort of world populated with pastries and eccentrics, but also a peculiarly distinct ache for something that can never be easily found. Happiness. Problems being answered before they haven’t quite realised that they’re problems. People finding people. Homes being made out of ash. Hearts being made whole when they didn’t think that could ever happen.
And that is Eva Ibbotson for me, an author who brings something perfect to me when I need it; a perfection that isn’t, really, going to change the world for me or solve my problems, but a perfection that will give me time to breathe and escape and find myself all over again. She has her rhythms, of course, but in a way I long for them. A noble young woman of noble ways, irrespective of birth, will continue to be noble and resist he slow, soft, endless love she feels for an equally noble man. Noble ways will keep them apart, misunderstandings too, perhaps, before life will bring them back together. Predictable, yes, but also sometimes incredibly vital. Important. A problem solved. The world coming together, aligning.
A Song For Sumer is, in this wonderful new Macmillan edition, a book that seeks alignment. People are out of place. The world is shifting, moving towards an awful, awful war, and people are trying to find hope in it. Ellen Carr has gone to Austria where she shall keep house for an experimental school (so, intensely, always Dartington ), and she shall fall in love. You know it, I know it, there’s no point in trying to be coy. The question is who and why and where and when, and how many things shall get in their way before they realise that they are meant to be together.
It’s darker too than many of the other Ibbotson titles I’ve read; though the school remains relatively unaffected by the war, and it’s set in pre-annexation Austria, there are still moments that are breathlessly pained. Ibbotson really could write, she did write, and we are so lucky that she did.
My thanks to the publisher for a review copy.