By the time the summer holidays begin, Spencer Little is keen to put the events of the past term at Cambridge behind him and a remote village in the Lake District seems to offer the perfect escape. But it's not so easy to remain anonymous in a small community and, after striking up a friendship with ten year old Alice, Spencer also finds himself being drawn into other people's lives. As the summer heatwave intensifies and a web of complicity tightens around him, Spencer realizes that he will eventually be forced to choose between loyalty and truth, between logic and passion.
I have had this book on my kindle for a while, and I'm pretty sure that I bought it because it won the Green Carnation prize (for writers who are in the LGBT community), and... I probably heard somebody gushing about it on one of the book podcasts I listen to? Not sure. Anyway, it had sat on my kindle for a while, and the only reason that I ended up reading it is that I asked my husband to randomly pick something off my TBR list for me to read next. It turned out to be an excellent choice!
I loved the setting of the book. I read it just after reading The City and the City by China Miéville (which I really enjoyed!), which is set in... well, it's difficult to describe, but it's two cities that are superimposed on each other, and it took me quite a while to wrap my head around the setting, so it was a bit of a relief to get back to the English countryside, a setting that I am more familiar with. Although having said that, I've never read any books set in the lake district, so that was quite interesting! To be honest, even though I have met people from that area, it doesn't exist in my head as a place where actual people live (if you know what I mean). The countryside is beautifully drawn in the book, and the relationships between the people in the local area all felt completely real.
I really enjoyed seeing Spencer slowly find his place in this community, while also struggling with the demons he has been trying to escape from. Although I wasn't entirely sure what to make of him at first, as we find out more of his back story I came to really like him as a character, and as someone who is more often than not the newcomer who doesn't quite fit in I really sympathised with him. I love his relationships with everybody else in the book, and the way that he slowly comes to be more accepted by the community.
And then... I can't really talk about the other things that I loved, because they would be massive spoilers! But overall although this book is definitely a slow burner, it completely won me over by the time I was a couple of chapters into it, and by the time I had finished it I was so overwhelmed with feelings that I ended up feeling weirdly empty, like it was too much for me to actually be able to express anything. It was really beautiful and heartbreaking, and I really recommend it! I'm definitely going to go and track down her other books now.