Published: 25 May 2023
Author: Katie Bishop
Published by: Bantam Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Reading dates: 15-19 May 2023
Rachel has loved Alistair since she was seventeen.
Even though she hasn’t seen him for sixteen years and she’s now married to someone else.
Even though she was a teenager when they met.
Even though he is almost twenty years older than her.
Now in her thirties, Rachel has never been able to forget their golden summer together on a remote, sun-trapped Greek island. But as dark and deeply suppressed memories rise to the surface, Rachel begins to understand that Alistair – and the enigmatic, wealthy man he worked for – controlled much more than she ever realized.
Rachel has never once considered herself a victim – until now.
Rachel and her husband Tom are holidaying on a remote Greek island, chosen by Tom in order for Rachel to relive the summer she spent on the island, while backpacking as a teenager. They don’t seem to be particularly happy – they are trying unsuccessfully for a baby and Rachel is mostly feeling irritated by Tom. They visit the bar in which Rachel worked as a teenager and Rachel bumps into Helena, another of the girls she spent time with that summer who has stayed on the island and now owns the bar. She meets Helena the next day and asks if she is in contact with Alastair, the older man whom Rachel had a relationship with at 17. She gives Rachel his number and when she returns to London, makes contact.
Told in a series of flashbacks, we see Rachel’s life on the island – a group of young female travellers like her, who become her friends, working in a bar so they can stay on the island, drinking and generally having a good time. We see her meet Alastair and they start a relationship, and we know something dreadful happened and it ended badly and Rachel has never really gotten over her obsession with him despite being married now to Tom.
The memories get more and more sinister – the relationship with Alastair feels wrong to us, the reader from the beginning and the things that her and her friends do for him and his employer, the millionaire Henry Taylor are so obviously inappropriate to the reader but in Rachel’s narration she doesn’t paint them this way.
The Girls of Summer really reminded me of My Dark Vanessa. Rachel, who isn’t a confident teenager, is captivated by Alastair and the glamour of his life – he in turn tells her he loves how young she is, doesn’t want her to wear make up insisting it spoils her beauty. She sees him on his terms and is happy to do the things he asks of her because he tells her he loves her.
It is a really uncomfortable read. Rachel isn’t the most likable of characters but she has never come to terms with what happened on the island so I can see why she is like she is. A mystery, with the theme of coercive control, The Girls of Summer was a real thought provoking page turner that had me hooked.
Lots of lovely bloggers are reviewing The Girls of Summer on the blog tour – please check out their reviews below.
With thanks to Transworld for my beautiful finished copy and to Anne for inviting me on the blog tour.
About the author
Katie Bishop is a writer and journalist based in the UK.
Her debut novel, The Girls of Summer publishes in May 2023 with Transworld, UK and St. Martin’s Press, US.