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Friday, 17 January 2014

Jonathan Smith - Summer in February

reviewed live on bookshow by Babs Simpson January 2014
This is based on true events that happened in the artists' colony at Lamorna Cove, Cornwall, in the golden age of the early 1900's before the 1st WW.
The main characters are Alfred Munnings, celebrated painter of horses as well as beautiful women, his glorious young wife Florence, also an artist, and Gilbert Evans, Manager at the Boskenna Estate.
The story opens 40yrs after the events, with Sir Alfred Munnings outgoing president of the Royal Academy, making his final speech to that body at the end of which he launches into a tirade against Modern Art.  The speech is rambling and dissolves into incoherence and when he says a particular word that takes him back to 1916 and Lamorna, he is unable to continue.  The speech was broadcast live by the BBC and must have been dreadfully embarrassing for all concerned.
The story unfolds slowly and inexorably to its sad conclusion.  It is beautifully written, West Cornwall is faithfully described in sunshine and storm and the love affair between the main characters is vividly drawn.
My only quibble is that I couldn't imagine why Florence ever married Alfred.  But perhaps the author couldn't either so was unable to make that part believable.  But the fact remains that she did and it's all true, so there we are.
Summer in February has recently been made into a film and I shall be interested to see it.  I really enjoyed the book and hope the film does such an extraordinary story full justice.

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