The Summer We Read Gatsby, by Danielle Ganek
Extend your summer delights with this beach read. It’s a quick trip out to Southampton, and then weeks languishing by the sunny shore. Two sisters, with very different mothers, share memories of a beloved Aunt Lydia and their summer visits to her beach home. Eccentric Aunt Lydia has now passed away. The two sisters are very different women, one quietly practical and the other a larger than life romantic. They meet for a few weeks at Fool’s House, so named long ago by Lydia, to pack it up and sell it. Or, can they revive it? They find that there’s little they agree on.
Aunt Lydia’s will had been written in the flowery words she’d loved all her creative life. The will included that she’d bequeathed her house and all its contents to her beloved nieces. She was quite specific that they spend a month in Southampton together in the summer and seek a “thing of utmost value” from within this cherished place. So here they are, like it or not. Can they at least cooperate well enough to uncover this hidden value?
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” the narrator Nick Carraway remarks, “You can’t repeat the past.” It was Gatsby who answers, “Why of course you can.” These sisters immerse themselves in the eccentric life, traditions, and romance of the house and friends they thought they knew from so many summers ago. Over these few weeks they find out how little they did know. Now they learn so much about this place, its character, and each other.
It’s hard to resist a book that starts, “Hats, like first husbands in my experience, are usually a mistake.” This summer starts with an extravagant Gatsby-style party, introduces some memorable characters, follows clues to a mysterious stolen painting, along with a stolen first edition of The Great Gatsby, reveals romantic games, and also a secret about Aunt Lydia. Then, like most summers it ends all too soon.
This is Danielle Ganek’s second novel. Although American, the author spent most of her childhood in Brazil and then in Lausanne, Switzerland. She says she always felt like a foreigner, even when she returned to the U.S. at 16. “Being a perpetual outsider made me a constant observer and I began writing as a child,” she says. “I’m a fiction writer. I’m a big believer in our ability as readers to suspend our disbelief.”
Thereby hangs a tale . . . .
— By Wendy Kendall
Wendy Kendall is a writer, project manager and volunteer at the Edmonds Library. She’s enjoyed living in Edmonds for over 20 years. Follow her via her blog here or on Twitter @wendywrites1.