‘Summerlong’ by Dean Bakopolous (2015) – 354 pages
The new novel ‘Summerlong’ reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Ingmar Bergman’s atypical comedy movie ‘Smiles of a Summer Night’ which in its turn was influenced by the William Shakespeare play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. All three of these works are based on the premise that summer is a wondrous and magic time for trysts between men and women.
If ever there was a hot summer novel, ‘Summerlong’ is it. It is summer, and sex is all over the place. I never realized that the small college town of Grinnell, Iowa was such a steamy place, but this is a summer idyll so let the libidos wander free.
The novel centers on real estate agent Don Lowry (“It’s your home, but it’s my business”) and his wife Claire. They are both in their late thirties with two adolescent children. As the novel opens, Don is out walking by himself and meets an alluring young woman who is called ABC lying in the grass. Soon he is going to her house often where she and he share some marijuana. At the same time his wife Claire meets a young man Charlie to whom she is much attracted. Will she or won’t she? So the marriage is shaky on both sides. Besides Don and Claire have severe financial problems and may lose their own house.
It turns out that Charlie’s father was a lecherous professor at Grinnell College who had dozens of affairs including one with ABC. Later in the novel ABC and Charlie get together also. Then there is Ruth, the wise old woman that ABC is caring for who makes mysterious and clairvoyant pronouncements throughout the novel. I believe she also had a rendezvous with Charlie’s father.
All the hook-ups in ‘Summerlong’ happen at a pace much too smooth and easy, so the novel is not at all realistic and ultimately untrue. However this is a summer idyll and not grim dull reality.
One thing Bakopoulos is very good at is to make you feel the atmosphere of a scene. Thus when a scene is at the pool or on the beach on a hot summer day, you can feel the heat in your shorts.
‘Summerlong’ is a smooth read but not a deep read, and it is best for a reader not to think about or question the characters or events, because I doubt they would stand up to much scrutiny.
I listened to the entire audio book in three days, and it was entirely sufficient to listen to the story only once. It is not Shakespeare or Bergman. ‘Summerlong’ probably will not make my year-end Top Ten list, because the story is much too facile, but I enjoyed it for what it is, a summer amusement.