Review of Summer Loving By Allie Spencer
by Marie Zaharaki 31 Jul 2011
ALLIE SPENCER’S latest chick lit offering Summer Loving follows four English girls during their two-week holiday on the island of Liminaki, located somewhere near Rhodes. The girls – Beth, Anna, Ginny and Kirsten – are looking forward to a bonding-fest of late nights, dancing and alcohol but due to a hiccup with the hotel booking and a subsequent tour operator “upgrade”, they find themselves on a sleepy island with nothing but a few local tavernas, a low-key bar and the beach for entertainment. Making the best of the situation, they settle in for a relaxing holiday and, according to the cover, “a whole lot of trouble”.
The trouble mentioned, however, is virtually all self-inflicted. Instead of the romance and girl-power read expected, the book offers an angst-ridden look at the lives of four individuals each of whom is too unsure of themselves to make any decisions without a strong-minded shove by the other girls, though all are equally lacking in self-assurance. The only holiday romance – that between Anna and a local waiter – is barely touched upon except as a way to link the group to the town’s activities and the relationships between the four, while the love lives of the other characters have little consistency from one scene to the next.
Despite the book cover’s promises of a multi-layered plot, the story seems to move forward partly accidentally and partly by the author’s need to fill the pages. No time is allowed for the development of characters as they are propelled from one scene to the next as quickly as possible.
Points of view and personality traits that have previously been described as strong and unchangeable transform into the exact opposite at the drop of a hat, while plot devices appear from nowhere when they are needed, disappearing almost as quickly afterwards.
Greece, apart from giving the author the chance to use one very Greek surname, seems to function only as a generic backdrop to explain the combination of sea, sun and the use of a supposedly historical object when needed. The whole story could very easily be transferred to any other island in the Mediterranean with little need for change and absolutely no effect on the way anything unfolds. Even setting it in the UK would make little difference to the plot.
There are many points in this book that are engaging but it’s unfortunate the author did not demonstrate a willingness to develop the story a bit more naturally and instead tried to follow the dictates of action books. This could have been a far more satisfying and well-rounded journey for any reader but trying to fit in all details without a discriminating author’s eye lets the characters down at every turn and stops the reader from fully escaping within its fictional world.
Having said that, it is still a passable read for a trip (or lounging by a pool or at the beach) if all you really want is a short-term distraction between activities. But don’t give up other entertainment for it.
By Allie Spencer
Arrow, 400pp, 9 euros
|Athens News 1/Aug/2011 page 3|