Book Review: Last Summer by Kylie Ladd

Rating: ★★★★☆

Every so often, we experience a moment that changes everything, a point at which we’re forced to re-evaluate and take stock of what’s important. Often such a life-altering moment stems from a realisation of our own mortality and once we emerge from mourning we see life with amazing clarity, like spring after a dark, sombre winter.

Eight friends and one wife are forced into the cold darkness of grief when Rory dies. This quintessential Aussie bloke has been at the centre of their lives for years, whether they care to admit it or not, and the shock of his sudden death plunges them into new directions that they never saw coming.

His best friends face a new dynamic in their friendship group, their wives have to deal with changes in their relationships and the children try to cope with a situation of which they have little understanding. Rory’s sister is lost without him, and his wife is utterly grief-stricken.

How will they all cope? And where to from here?

Last Summer is a stunning exploration of loss, life, families and friendships.

The local cricket club (an omnipresent theme in itself) sets the scene, providing a background of competitiveness, celebration, disappointment and indifference an intriguing combination of feelings to draw on.

We delve straight into the lives of nine people, all completely different but refreshingly devoid of cliche. Readers are guided through the day-to-day lives of these families, from the non-descript to huge, life changing events.

Last Summer begins with a punch, and within the first few pages I had laughed, cried and held my breath as I read on. The pace never falters and I found the writing and storyline literally breathtaking. Little twists and turns kept me quickly turning pages and greedily wanting more. My only complaint was that I was exhausted every day, as the book kept me awake far too late each evening!

This is Kylie Ladd’s second novel. Her first, After the Fall, met with much critical acclaim and showcased this author’s talent for observation of human nature. Her latest offering takes this further – it is written so beautifully and honestly, and she makes every single word work hard. I love the way she makes the small parts of life noteworthy and interesting, or rather, notices the small, noteworthy and interesting parts of life.

Last Summer is a must-read.

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