Monday, June 4, 2012

Review: A Song for Summer

A Song for Summer, by Eva Ibbotson. The GoodReads summary:
Ellen never expected the Hallendorf school to be quite so unusual. Her life back in England with her suffragette mother and liberated aunts certainly couldn't be called normal, but buried deep in the beautiful Austrian countryside, Ellen discovers an eccentric world occupied by wild children and even wilder teachers, experimental dancers and a tortoise on wheels. And then there is the particularly intriguing, enigmatic, and very handsome Marek, part-time gardener and fencing teacher. Ellen is instantly attracted to the mysterious gardener, but Hitler's Reich is already threatening their peaceful world, and only when she discovers Marek's true identity and his dangerous mission does Ellen realize the depth of her feelings for him - and the danger their newfound love faces in the shadow of war.
Oh, Eva Ibbotson. How do you craft such perfect stories? Seriously. I don’t know how she manages it every single time. Like its title implies, A Song for Summer is a warm and comfortable story. It isn’t about intense character development or gritty realism—it’s about the joy of the simple things in life and the beauty of quiet kindness. Ibbotson’s stories always feel like fairy tales to me, even though they take place in the real world—I think it’s the way even the small things feel magical in her deft storytelling.

I think A Song for Summer is one of my favorite Ibbotson books so far. I just love Ellen so much. She’s unobtrusive and not showy at all, but she holds everyone together. She’s that kind of person that people can’t help loving because she truly cares about others and helps them in quiet but necessary ways. Ellen has a subtle strength and dedication that carries her through all kinds of hardships, and I really admire pretty much everything about her.

I really like Merek too. From the moment I learned that he built a wheeled platform to take the place of a crippled tortoise’s hind legs, I knew he was going to get on my good side. And I really appreciated that as wonderful as Merek is, he isn’t perfect. He lets his pride and his anger get the best of him sometimes, but he always manages to pull himself back together nonetheless.

And of course, as in all Ibbotson books, the secondary characters were fantastic. All the kids and the staff at the crazy boarding school, the villagers, the musicians—they practically jumped off the page. And the setting is beautiful. Reading this book, I was reminded how skilled Ibbotson is at making you feel like you’re in the same gorgeous Austrian countryside as her characters. I so want to live in an Ibbotson book—they’re just so . . . idyllic.

Overall, of course I recommend this book. If it’s an Ibbotson book, it’s impossible to go wrong. I do feel like Ibbotson lost her grip on the story a little in the last fourth, because she’s trying to cover so much time in a short number of pages. But considering the awesomeness of the rest of the book, I can overlook it.

Rating: 4.5 / 5


  1. I really need to get started reading one of Ibbotson's books. I feel like they're going to stick with me the way Melina Marchetta's do. Thankfully this one sounds like a light one despite the Nazi bit.

  2. You are really selling me on Eva Ibbotson. I finally managed to get a copy of The Countess Below Stairs (it was more difficult than it sounds because the title was changed to The Secret Countess over here - I was wondering why Amazon kept directing me to a book with a different name!) and shall be reading it soon. Hope I become a fan!

  3. That sounds just like the book for me right now. If only I weren't like 10 books behind in my reading list. I have even been doing well and reading about 2 books a week... There are just so many out there.

    I'm excited to give this one a go.


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