Summer Of ’76 by Isabel Ashdown

Ten members were welcomed to this month’s meeting with apologies and their thoughts on the book received from 10 other members unable to attend. The meeting began with everyone wishing Joan their best wishes on her news that she was moving to the West Country, she had sent a lovely email to the Group with her apologies for not being able to be with us as she was moving the following day and saying how much she had enjoyed being a member of our Group. Everyone agreed that she would be really missed and had been a valued and lovely friendly member and were sure that she would find another Group on the Mainland who would be very lucky to have her. Of course if not we were all sure that she could and should start a new one!!!!

Brenda then opened the discussion by asking members what they had thought of the book. Several members initially voiced their struggle to stay reading the story and also general disinterest with it, starting OK then a bit of an anti-climax and then just fizzling out! One member said it felt a bit pedestrian and others saying there really wasn’t that much going on to keep reading to the end apart from the hope “perhaps it MIGHT get better” with several members admitting to not finishing the book although curious as how it would end.

Most members said that they had been looking forward to and reminiscing with the names of familiar places as the Island was being highly featured but some struggled slightly with some of the descriptions of Luke and Martins’ journeys which were definitely not accurate. For example, Sandown seemed remarkably near Woodside where Luke’s Nan lived! Others also felt that the author had used the known accounts of the famous (or even infamous) UK Summer heatwave of 1976 and had built the book and centred it around them using “placed” Island towns, villages and tourist areas and was just determined to get them all in, not in depth and coming across that she did not really appear to have the detailed knowledge herself but obviously knew someone who could detail it for her.

Apart from Chapter headings of Met Office weather reports for the Isle of Wight during the Summer of 1976 and THAT promise on the front cover of the book “In the heat of the moment” and one member saying that having read the book half way through she “couldn’t hang around to see what it was” and thinking did she miss something? There was nothing much of a relevant one either to it in the book! A few members did find it fun to read, light and easy and could identify with the characters and local people but found it generally a somewhat superficial book which glossed over a lot of issues but did not delve into any of them. Recall of the 1970’s lifestyle was fairly familiar with a few members saying that it was thought they were conjured up more from their own knowledge back then rather than from skilled writing here. The storyline characters were discussed with members agreeing that the book may have been better to have been set and a better read too with the likeable Martin as the main character with his story and future more in depth. Perhaps a sequel!!!??

Following our discussion of the book and evoking everything 1970’s and to “wind up” the evening an interesting and hilarious discussion followed with members regaling stories with regards to life on and off the Island during this era All I am going to say is whilst on your travels out and about look for that Pampas Grass!!!!


So to summarise …………….

Most members thought the book was an easy read, with names of familiar places set on the Island, identifiable with some of the characters of the era (yes only some of them!!) but nearly everyone found themselves struggling with a shallow, pedestrian, disappointing and something of nothing book which glossed over lots of issues of the day, had no real story to it and was a real anti-climax. Not helped by the use of a prologue at the beginning of this book which was felt to have given away any “mystery element” should anyone had read it previously.

So, although not totally “disliked” it was a definite “thumbs down” for us.

We voted NOT to recommend it to a friend!