Sentimental Journey

That Summer Place



The Days of Summer
by Jill Barnett
(Atria, $24.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-671-03535-5
In writing The Days of Summer, Jill Barnett has moved far beyond her light-hearted frothy romance origins. It would, in fact, be a misnomer to call this book a romance. Even though romances between characters are involved, it falls more securely into the multi-generational, multi-family saga genre. If that isnít the type of book that ordinarily appeals to you, make an exception for The Days of Summer. This is one you donít want to miss.

In 1957 a drunk and angry Rudy Banning is speeding when his car collides with another carrying a pop singing group. This incident will have repeated repercussions through the years.

Rudy and his artist wife Rachel Espinosa are killed as is the lead singer Jimmy Peyton and another occupant in the other car. Jimmy Peyton leaves a young wife Kathryn and a four-year-old daughter Laurel living in Seattle. Kathryn and Laurel move in with Jimmyís grieving mother whose strong, embittered attitude overwhelms Kathryn. The orphaned Jud and Cale Banning, twelve and eight respectively, are left to live with their grandfather Victor Banning, a California oil magnate whose controlling personality drives him to dominate everyone around him.

In 1970 Kathryn has moved from Seattle to Santa Catalina Island. She has never gotten over Jimmyís death. An artist, she creates pottery that reflects her view of life. Laurel is seventeen, almost eighteen, when she meets Jud Banning on the ship that travels between Catalina Island and the mainland. Jud is now working for his grandfather, and Laurel is training to become a chef. Jud is attracted to her in spite of the disparity in their ages. A later chance meeting with the younger Banning brother Cale, a premed student, blossoms into Laurelís first experience with love. It isnít until things have gotten serious between the two that Kathryn discovers the horrible coincidence of the Bannings reentering their lives. Victory Banning is just as unhappy with Caleís romance with Laurel.

The families will next meet in 2002.

As is common when writing a synopsis of a novel with multiple lead characters and several storylines, my plot summary doesnít do The Days of Summer justice. There is no single hero or heroine or one central storyline. In the same way, thereís no single villain. Less admirable characters such as Rudy Banning and Julia Peyton (Jimmyís mother) are more weak than evil. Itís possible to feel sympathy for them all.

Character development is the strength of The Days of Summer. Each character is an individual with his or her own personality and motivation. They have been shaped by strong family influences and the stresses of life. I became completely absorbed in the story because I came to care what happened to these people.

The plot does depend heavily on amazing coincidences. The repeated convergence of the lives of the various members of the Banning and the Peyton families is something that only happens in fiction. Moreover, Iíd be more comfortable if the femme fatale Peyton women werenít so young when they first attract the interest of the various male Bannings. Nevertheless, the rich character development combined with the involved family dynamics provides a depth that makes The Days of Summer a gripping story. It fully deserves TRRís highest rating.

--Lesley Dunlap

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