Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summer in the Country Review

Summer in the Country by Edith Templeton was first published in 1950 and was the first novel of Czech writer Edith Templeton (1916-2006). The edition that I read for this review was a 1985 reprint by Hogarth Press that I got at a used book sale, and to be honest, I'm not that crazy about the book cover.

Summer in the Country is the story of the Birk family who live at Castle Kirna in central Bohemia. The time is summer sometime after World War I. The heads of the family are old Mrs. Birk and her brother, Tony. Mrs. Birk has two daughters, the stern Alice, and the reserved Bettine. 

The family awaits the arrival of visitors. First, there is Raoul Marek, an attorney from the city, who has been invited by Alice as a suitor for Bettine. Marek has an unusual connection to the family that no one realizes. Then there is Margot, Alice's beautiful and sensitive daughter, who is married to Oscar Ritter. 

Ritter is the villain of the piece whom no one in the family really likes. He is a millionaire, and it is his money that keeps Castle Kirna afloat, something he won't let the Birks forget. The only problem is that Margot can't stand being married to Ritter with his wandering eye and his overbearing manner, and she is thinking of leaving him.

Templeton has created interesting characters in the Birks, their visitors, and the servants at the castle. I love Templeton's writing style. It is amazing to me that English was not her first language because you could never tell by her lovely use of the English language. 

She has written a story that resembles a drawing room comedy but with a different take on this. Although the setting for Castle Kirna is beautiful, the castle itself is a bit dingy with its worn rugs and shabby furniture. The family lives in a certain way with with their customs and traditions of the way things have been done for generations which makes life rather difficult for the outsiders, Marek and Ritter. 

If you are looking for a fast moving plot, Summer in the Country is not your story. I found the novel to slow down a bit midway, but there is a surprise ending that I didn't see coming.

Have you read Summer in the Country or any of Edith Templeton's novels?

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