SUMMERTIME by Raffaella Barker


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Venetia and her children, Giles and Felix, and their very young sister, the Beauty, are back (Hens Dancing, 2001)—as befuddled as ever.

Now that boyfriend David has decamped to the farthest reaches of the Amazon to build sets for a jungle movie, Venetia, in rural England, must cope with a peculiar ménage of children, relatives, and pets. It’s not any easier than it was a few years ago, but it’s no less amusing. The Beauty is now three, given to flouncing about in tutus and putting nail polish on the bull terrier’s claws. Venetia’s dotty mother wanders in and out, occasionally pursued by her ardent suitor, the Reverend Trevor Heel. Seems like love is in the air: Venetia’s brother Desmond is marrying at last, and Venetia has unwisely agreed to host the catered affair. For it, Bass and Siren, neo-hippie neighbors, put up a filthy canvas tent left over from a rave and marked with graffiti. Minna, the snooty bride-to-be, is none too pleased. Venetia, meanwhile, has other things to worry about, enumerated on many lists all beginning with the same five items: Cake, Car, Hymns, Drink, and Glasses. She’d considered giving up alcohol until Easter, but now rejects the idea as altogether unwise. Though David tries to stay in touch, his limited communications aren’t enough for Venetia, who has mastered the art of going to pieces without anyone actually noticing. To soothe her nerves and earn some extra money, she begins to decorate jumble-sale sweaters with sequins, beads, odd buttons, and the like for a fashionista friend—and is delighted when these become must-have items for trendy young Londoners. Life goes on, messily as usual. An expedition to the seashore goes instantly awry, making Venetia wonder how she gets herself into one absurd predicament after another. Can she soldier on till David’s eventual return?

Charming follow-up, with the same cast of benign eccentrics, plus a few new ones.

Pub Date: May 14th, 2002
ISBN: 0-375-50387-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2002