It is 1936, the height of summer in New Zealand, and the Hopkins family have rented a house at the beach. Alone during the week while her husband works, Lorna is bored. That is until James, the most handsome man in the area, decides to make an amateur western, involving all the locals.
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Barbara Anderson's sixth novel, Long Hot Summer, is as leisurely, and whimsical, as the story it tells. It's the summer of 1936; a small New Zealand community spins its life around the Bay, the beach and the passionate encounters between people--parents and children, husbands and wives, friends and lovers, Maoris and colonials--who live close enough to have to get to know one another. The Hopkins family is central to the book; two voices--Lorna and Ann, mother and daughter--tell the story of what happened when their neighbour, James Clements, decided to make an amateur film, Lust in the Dust, while his sister, Bella, falls in love with Tamati Ropata, unleashing the scandal of inter-racial love which haunts this book. The voices echo one another, letting the reader in on the different versions of events belonging to adult and child. "Everyone should have the company of a small child occasionally," Lorna muses. "They are good at wonder and their enthusiasm is at the ready." It's an endorsement that runs through the book, though the voices of the children are sometimes curiously adult, stilted. At the same time, the quiet discontents of an ordinary marriage run parallel with the discoveries of childhood, with film-making and scandal. "I used to be a nice woman, kind and pleasant, a dear girl once, I swear": Lorna's opening lines introduce the tension, at once sexual and ethical, that surrounds the Hopkins' marriage, the changes it will undergo as the result of this long, hot summer. Anderson's skill lies in weaving her different plots and perspectives together, driving her characters, and readers, towards a consideration of the "imponderables"--"empathy, sympathy, attraction"--that, by making it possible to appreciate someone, allows a love to blossom. Vicky LebeauReview:
"Sharp, poised social comedy, driven by immaculately droll prose." --"Independent""A novelist of great talent, well qualified to write black comedy. But she has, too, the comprehension of human incomprehension, the pity for human pity, that makes it possible to write tragedy." --"TLS"
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