The Summer of Secrets

The Summer of Secrets

THE SUMMER OF SECRETS is the story of Helen, a shy sixteen-year-old whose life is changed forever in the summer of 1983 when the bohemian Dover family moves into an abandoned cottage on the banks of the nearby canal. Helen is infatuated, especially with the petulant and charming Victoria, and the Dovers instantly make Helen’s lonely world a more thrilling place. Even her morose father is affected, and with the help of Victoria’s uncle Piet he begins to renovate his long-neglected boat. But the idyll of their long, sultry summer is shattered by a terrible tragedy and Helen never sees the Dovers again. That is, until one day thirty years later when Victoria reappears.

Now Helen must finally confront what happened that summer. She has always wanted to be part of the Dover family. The trouble is, what is left of the family for her to join? And what exactly was her part in their tragedy?

Sarah Jasmon's boat on the Leeds/Liverpool canal

I live on a boat on the Leeds/Liverpool canal near to a village called Burscough in Lancashire. The little guy above is my son, a few years back now, standing on the gunnels. He’s a lot bigger now, and the boat isn’t quite so shiny. After ten years afloat, I still love the way of life, and the canal itself has crept into my being. The Summer of Secrets plays out along the banks of my home stretch, although in a fictionalised representation. If you’re familiar with the area, you might recognise bits of the scenery, but I deliberately kept the location fairly vague. The canal is very present in the narrative, but I’ve played fast and loose in making it my own imaginary setting.

I’ve realised that the canal is also something of a metaphor for one of the themes in The Summer of Secrets, that of connections taking us back even when we think we’ve left them behind. The waterway is a very linear community. News gets passed along, boat by boat; I follow the movements of people I will never speak to as they pass me on their way; my neighbours shift and sometimes vanish overnight. One of my initial triggers for The Summer of Secrets was the sense you sometimes get of looking back at decisions made in the past. I think we’ve all had those moments, of wondering how life would be had we made different choices. Helen tried to leave behind what happened that summer, but the past has a way of coming to find you. And it’s the canal she returns to in order to face up to her part in the summer’s unravelling.

The Summer of Secrets (Black Swan) is published by Transworld. It’s available at all good bookshops, and on Amazon here.

 

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