Book review: What Dies In Summer, Tom Wright
LONG, hot summers seem to lend themselves to coming of age stories, and “that one summer that changed everything”, for good or ill, is a device writers can’t resist.
They are the backdrop for first kisses and late nights, new friendships and, in this novel, grim discoveries.
At the beginning of a sweltering Texan summer, Biscuit is a naïve teenager living with his grandmother and his cousin L.A.
She’s smarter than he is, darker, more worldly and with deeper secrets.
They kick around together, doing not much at all until one day they stumble upon the body of a teenage girl, one of three victims, all horribly mutilated.
Wright sets things up nicely for a juicy whodunnit, but the murders are something of a subplot in the lives of Biscuit and L.A, just one event in a series which shape the loss of Biscuit’s innocence as the summer unfolds.
Abuse, neglect and violence lurk in the shadows of his life and the lives of those around him, but by the end of the summer, as the police close in on the killer, they are stark, unbearable realities.
By contrast, Biscuit’s burgeoning sexuality is a happy distraction, and his first romance is sweet and perfect, his only coming of age story in a more just world.
A description of his first sexual encounter is a heart-breaking sliver of light sandwiched between the darknesses of his childhood and the difficult adulthood he will no doubt embark upon when summer ends.
Tom Wright’s prose is smart, smooth and evocative right from the opening line – “I did what I did and that’s on me” – and he’s a gifted storyteller, able to present visceral themes with restraint and tact.
What Dies In Summer is an accomplished first novel; menacing, punchy, tense and as close and sticky as a long summer in the Deep South. «
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
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Wind direction: West
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