The Telling

Other Fiction

Nancy Brewster, a reclusive living on the shore in New England, reflects on the baleful events that have cruelly shaped her life. As The Summer of '39 opens, she is writing her memoirs, largely to exorcise the "insanity" that for years kept her locked within a sanitarium. From her life in the bohemian world of Greenwich Village in the 1920s to her marriage to Chance Brewster, a luckless literary dreamer, to an ill-fated visit from strangers from across the Atlantic in the pivotal summer of '39, Nancy's thoughts linger most deeply on her encounter with Isabel March, an enigmatic poet and practiced husband-stealer. Their friendship, while beginning auspiciosly, ends in a tangle of divorce and madness. Soon Nancy's wistful, seemingly random memories carry us to a climax as startling and monstrous as any in contemporary fiction.

Inspired by the events that occured when the poets Robert Graves and Laura Riding left Europe to spend a summer with a young American couple,The Summer of '39 is both a profound, intensely affecting account of one woman's madness and a haunting paean to the world on the eve of the Second World War.

"A noted biographer of Robert Graves, SEYMOUR goes one fictional step further, skillfully transforming a fragment of his time in America with the poet Laura Riding into a luminous but chillingly tenebroud tale of malice, marital insecurity and ordinary madness.... The atmosphere of intimated dread is flawlessly realized." Sunday Times (London)
"Devastating. One of the most skillful depictions of the power of evil I have read in a long time." Pat Barker
"A novel with the tension of a thriller and yet the resonance of a deeply contemplative work. It is an experiment that works superbly." Margaret Forster
"Seymour shows mastery of tension, of domestic investment, of pace.A compelling and frightening book." Candia McWilliam
"Masterly.A book that stays in the mind long after the last page has - reluctantly -been turned." Peter Vansittart

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