Summer’s Gone (Charles Hall, Margaret River)
Summer’s Gone, a debut novel by Melbourne writer Charles Hall, is a coming-of-age story set in the 1960s that mingles nostalgia with tragedy; Beatles-mania with backyard abortions. Its protagonist Nick is a young and somewhat clueless boy from Perth who inherits a banjo from his uncle and quickly discovers that girls love folk music. He and the loutish Mitch form a folk group with two wayward sisters from Melbourne and rapidly tumble into relationships. But nothing stays straightforward for long. Hall’s writing is descriptive and contemplative. He effectively captures the contrast between the brave new world brought in by the Beatles, flower power and hippies, and the pre-existing world of conservative values, ingrained sexism and cultural monotony. He is less effective at strong characterisation, with one sister shining more brightly than the other, and the occasional overuse of navel-gazing techniques. Still, it’s a perceptive account of a tumultuous era when young people were suddenly on the receiving end of changes almost too quick to comprehend. Hall’s novel recalls a time that often feels like it belongs to another world but doesn’t, and will appeal to those wishing to reminisce about their own golden summers and youthful idealism.
Hilary Simmons is a former assistant editor at Books+Publishing and a freelance reviewer and journalist