A young woman confronts her magical, tragic past when she receives a scrapbook of the summers spent with her estranged mother.
Despite working in the London art world, Beth Lowe lives a reserved life. She sees her father (a mere shadow of a man) on occasion, but hasn’t spoken to her mother in 15 years. Then a package arrives, a handmade scrapbook marked The Book of Summers. Tucked inside is a note from her mother’s longtime lover Zoltán, informing Beth that her mother has died. She grabs the album and heads to the park to recall memories she banished as a teenager. Her quiet English father and wild Hungarian mother seemed an odd pair, but 9-year-old Erzsi (the Hungarian of Elizabeth) is a happy child excited about the family vacation to Hungary, the first time Marika has been back since she escaped as a girl. But on vacation, the incomprehensible happens: Marika decides to stay and sends David and little Erzsi back home to England. Her mother’s abandonment is almost too much to take, and Erzsi pines for letters and phone calls as her home life with her father (tea and detective shows) becomes unbearably gray. But then summer comes, and Erzsi is allowed to visit her mother. Marika and artist Zoltán live in a country house dominated by art and laughter and nature—a bohemian counterpart to the lonesome domesticity of Erzsi’s English life. Down the road lives Tamás, a boy Erzsi’s age, who shows her the pool in the forest, a touchstone for her subsequent stays. Every year she returns to Marika and their Hungarian summers and falls in love anew. Hall nicely captures a girl’s adolescence, as Erzsi waits all year to bloom under the Hungarian sun, under her mother’s care. At 16 Erzsi begs her mother to let her stay in Hungary. It is then that Marika tells her the truth: It’s a heartbreaking rewriting of history.
A poignant tale of a daughter strung between two parents and of the kind of silence and secrets that destroy families.