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Friday, June 22, 2007

Book Review - The Summer Country by James A. Hetley

I had seen this book at Borders, and it has a recommendation from Charles de Lint on the cover and is set in Maine, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to pay full price for it. So I was pleased when it turned up at the Big Chicken Barn used bookstore last time I was up in Ellsworth.

The book’s not bad, but all I can really think to say about it is meh. Once the book gets out of the real world into the Summer Country, it’s a pretty decent standard issue adventure of humans in fairyland story. I didn’t hate it, and I might even read the sequel if I come across it at a similarly discounted price, because I am a completist, and honestly, the story seemed too short.

However, I must say, the characterization of the town in Maine where the main character lives annoyed me. I live in Maine. I was rather surprised to find that the author also lives in Maine. His description of a typical Maine winter storm at beginning of the book involved too much sleet, and not enough snow. And I even live on the coast, where if anyone’s going to get sleet, we do.

I was also a bit put off by the description of the town the characters live in. Anyone that’s been to Maine knows that we don’t really do cities. We have a few, but in my mind, Portland’s the only one that merits the kind of description Naskeag Falls was getting. If you’re going to make up a place in Maine, it has to be a small town, or it’s not going to fit the essential feel of this state. And I do know I’m completely splitting hairs here, but the sense of place he created was so jarringly untrue in my mind, it threw me off from enjoying other parts of the book. I suppose I now know how residents of cities like New York or London feel about books that come in and completely miss their perceptions of places they see every day.

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