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Summer Will Show

3.49  ·  Rating Details  ·  228 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
Sophia Willoughby, a young Englishwoman from an aristocratic family and a person of strong opinions and even stronger will, has packed her cheating husband off to Paris. He can have his tawdry mistress. She intends to devote herself to the serious business of raising her two children in proper Tory fashion.

Then tragedy strikes: the children die, and Sophia, in despair, fin
ebook, 352 pages
Published June 8th 2011 by NYRB Classics (first published January 28th 1936)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,480)
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I read this a few years ago and gave it three stars. On my re-read, that has been raised to five. Such a wonderful novel. The moral of the story is always re-read, kids.
Mar 23, 2015 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What luck, to have read two absolutely excellent novels in a row! That doesn’t occur very often. ‘Summer Will Show’ was wonderful, a novel calculated to appeal to me as it combines feminism with revolutionary upheaval in 19th century Paris - two of my favourite subjects. First published in 1936, it initially struck me as a combination of Madame Bovary and Two Serious Ladies. The writing is lyrical but not as deft as Flaubert; the tone is less deadpan and madcap than Bowles. Where it beats both i ...more
Apr 08, 2014 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sylvia Townsend Warner was a female writer with Communist sympathies in love with a female poet when she wrote this story of an upper-class Englishwoman, Sophia Willoughby, who falls in love with her husband's Jewish mistress Minna Lemuel in Paris and who becomes embroiled in the French revolution of 1848. It's much more the story of Sophia's changing politics and class loyalties than it is one of "lesbian love."

In her introduction to this edition, Claire Harman calls the book "this lesbian nov
Jun 17, 2015 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Summer will Show, Warner’s fourth novel. Summer will Show is not an especially easy read, but I found the beginning particularly readable, almost unputdownable and although the novel eventually spirals off into a far more complex narrative – it is really very good and very beautifully written. This is a book that I think I will remember – which is always a very good sign. While several of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s novels revisit similar themes, the novels themselves do appear on the surface at le ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 09, 2011 Maia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 30s-40s
This is the first STW I've read in ages, but the deep satisfaction of it is amazing. Like watching old movies on TV, you keep asking; why don't they write them like this anymore? Lovely, lovely...
Feb 11, 2016 Ruby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-amsterdam, nyrb, 2015
this really isn't bad, but it is different from what I thought it would be and I wasn't really in the mood for it.
Feb 16, 2014 Cat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is odd, fascinating and uneven. What's wonderful about it is practically sublime; that which is mediocre about it balloons and overtakes the plot and the narration by the conclusion. So what's wonderful about it, as far as I'm concerned, is the fact that this book was published in the same year as Gone with the Wind, yet it's practically the anti-Gone With the Wind.

Like Gone With the Wind, it is historical fiction about a feisty, self-serving, and often unsympathetic protagonist. Sophi
Aug 29, 2010 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A mid-19th century aristocratic Englishwoman who has always chafed at the limited role her life offers women, has "dishusbanded" herself, lost her children to smallpox and so heads to Paris, where history immediately catches up with her, as it is February 1848. She more or less falls in love with and moves in with her ex-husband's ex-mistress (though the lesbian angle is somewhat sublimated), undergoes a transformation of her understanding of class (and, to a lesser extent, race) and by the June ...more
Dec 30, 2008 Rita rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
A 1936 novel by a mature Warner about an Englishwoman's experiences in Paris at the time of the 1848 "June revolution", based on quite a bit of research Warner did.
I got the book because it was highly recommended by an author I like, May Sarton.
The June revolution, which I had known nothing about, turns out to have to do with growing sympathies for Communist ideas at that time, and unrest among the suffering lower classes.
Warner herself, along with her life partner, joined the Communist Party i
Mar 16, 2010 Terence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terence by: Nation magazine review
My unrequitable love affair with Ms. Warner continues. More detailed review to come.


My love is of a birth as rare
As ‘tis of object strange and high,
It was begotten by despair
Upon impossibility.

Readers of my recent fiction reviews will know that I’ve been carrying on a literary love affair with Sylvia Townsend Warner these last few months. With Summer Will Show, the third of her novels I’ve read, that “passionate” relationship continues. Once again Warner creates a remarkable cha
William Leight
Oct 26, 2014 William Leight rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Summer Will Show" is the story of an upper-class Englishwoman who becomes a Communist. It is also, and far more interestingly, the story of an upper-class Englishwoman who escapes the bounds of her rigidly conventional existence (and sexuality) to find happiness. (Sylvia Townshend Warner was herself upper-class, English, a lesbian, and (for a time, at least) a Communist, though one shouldn't get carried away with any resemblance between her and our heroine, Sophia Willoughby: the book hardly co ...more
Jul 26, 2014 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first discovered Sylvia Townsend Warner this Spring when a friend gave me a copy of "Lolly Willows". I immediately fell in love with the book and the author. As Sarah Waters wrote in an article in "The Guardian" about Warner, 'she's certainly one of the most shamefully under-read great British authors of the past 100 years.' How true. After reading "Lolly Willows" I began searching for more Warner novels. Because she is a forgotten author it is not an easy task to locate her books. Fortunately ...more
Nov 29, 2011 Don rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk-novel
The singular tale of the redoubtable Sophia Willoughby, a lady of a class enjoying extensive property in south west England at a date which can be precisely fixed at the year of 1848.
A young woman, unhappily married, Sophia had banished her intellectually inferior, bland husband to pursuits which took him largely to the continent and Paris in particular. She remains on her estate to oversee the rearing of her two young children and generally to scold and bully the servants. Wilful and arrogant,
Kristina A
Jun 27, 2012 Kristina A rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: neo-victorian
Wow, this was fantastic. Why isn't anyone reading this author?

I picked this book up at Harvard Bookstore's warehouse sale last year. It first caught my eye because of the photo on the cover, by one of my favorite Victorian artists, Lady Clementina Hawarden. Then I noticed a quotation by Sarah Waters, one of my favorite novelists, who said this was one of her favorite novels. Well! Then I realized I had already read a STW novel before, the delightful Lolly Willowes, so I decided to try it out.

Apr 18, 2014 Featherbooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: selected-2014, women
Sylvia Townsend Warner has written a beautifully crafted tale of a 19th C wealthy, landed and slightly smug Englishwoman who spurns her adulterer husband, loses her children from smallpox and flees to France. There she finds herself stretching her feminist inklings to forge a new life with her husband's ex-mistress and embraces the revolution of 1848 happening around her. As Minna, her new companion, says "Though you may think you have chosen me..or chosen happiness,it is the revolution you have ...more
It was great… up to some point. I don’t really know where, but I suspect it started getting tedious when all of a sudden Sophia started subscribing (w00t alliteration) to Communist, hm, maybe not ideas, but actions. Why? Out of love for Minna, when Minna herself was sort of ambiguous about the revolution?

But the first part was absolutely magnificent. Here was Sophia, a wealthy, cold, calculating, unloving, unsympathetic, racist person, and I couldn’t tear myself off her – what a fascinating char
Feb 05, 2010 Jill rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
Shelves: trash
I disliked this book so much, I want to go back and turn every book I've ever reviewed and left a one star for and up it to to. I wish there were negative stars. The antisemitism in this book made it very difficult to read. I am reading it for a lesbian book club, and apparently it's supposed to be a love story, but the protagonists never has anything nice to say about her supposed love interest, and often what she says is based in such stereotypical and hateful descriptions that it makes me thi ...more
Feb 21, 2013 Eileen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britlit, virago, history
It's hard to describe just how much race, class, gender, political points of view, and nationalism together dominate this book. The confluence is astounding and overwhelming.

I don't think I have ever seen a main character go through such a volte-face as Sophia does here. From aloof and distant English mother, frigidly estranged wife, wealthy mistress of a large estate, and coldly superior beneficiary to those she considers beneath her, holding the corresponding horrifying race, class, and gende
Simon Reid
This is an interesting example of historical fiction (written in 1936, set in 1848) and lesbian fiction (a romance between an unfortunate English aristocrat, Sophia, and her husband's erstwhile mistress, Minna, who escaped pogroms in her native Lithuania as a child).

There are some beautiful passages – a few that spring to mind are Sophia dawdling in the Cornish countryside, blissfully alone, and Minna's lyrical childhood reminiscence of the arrival of Spring in the forest, with a river waking up
Justin Howe
Jan 10, 2014 Justin Howe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane Austen meets Victor Hugo with a dash of Thelma and Louise.

Sophia Willoughby is a headstrong English aristocrat, who's sent her husband packing to live with his mistress while she goes about raising her children. The children die, and Sophia tracks her husband to Paris, where instead of reconciling with him she winds up infatuated with his mistress, Minna, and the two of them send the husband packing and proceed to live a Bohemian life together until the Revolution of 1848 puts them on the
3.5 stars. Ostensibly a historical novel about the 1848 revolutions in Paris, this book is perhaps more interesting for its position in 20th century history (1936) and its window into the thinly-veiled political views of the author (written parallel to Warner's experiences fighting anti-fascists in Spain). Sometimes charmingly sharp in its unique perspective, at others, abrasive in its disjointed prose and obscure references, it's not a cozy or effortless read. Still, I appreciated Warner's trea ...more
Sep 03, 2015 Ian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought the writing of the first half when Sophia loses here children was incredible and worth 5 stars. The second half of the book in 1848 revolutionary Paris was less inventively written more conventional narration, but an interesting premise. Ending was ambiguous.
Oct 12, 2015 Julie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was not my cup of tea and if I wasn't reading it for a class I wouldn't have finished it (too much exposition, too little dialogue, telling vs. showing etc). However it was a very interesting book to discuss in class as it has lots of interesting things to say about class, revolution, race and gender. I didn't enjoy it as a reader, but I still recommend it--especially you are interested in any of these aforementioned topics, or if you are curious about reading a novel that is a good ex ...more
I am really torn when it comes to this book.
On the one hand Sophia is a very frustrating protagonist, there is hardly anybody on the planet who does not irritate her.
On the other hand, I tried to take the historical context of the story into consideration, both the fact that it took place in 1848 but was written in the 1930's (I think) so half of the time I spent guessing which decade Sophia's thoughts were reflecting. I wouldn't describe Sophia as a particularly reliable narrator, even after al
Sep 15, 2014 Patrick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A curious, disappointing, puzzling book, and one which I found a great deal more interesting than enjoyable. It’s in the unusual position of being a novel which is basically modern but which feels doubly dated today: it was published in the 1930s, but while it’s ostensibly set in the French revolution of 1848, it still feels like the product of a twentieth-century literary conscience. It’s a book about the role of women in several different societies, all essentially patriarchal, and it’s also a ...more
I didn't love this as much as full-out bonkers Lolly Willowes, but I did love how she manages to combine 19th-century-novel-style pleasures with revolutionary politics. (Remember when Henry James tried to do that in The Princess Casamassima? Not as convincing.)
Cara M
Jun 17, 2016 Cara M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Utterly unexpected! Written in an intensely lifelike style!
And it ends in the same wildly unexpected manner.
Jan 27, 2014 Nancy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I only got 1/2 way through. Interesting sentence structure. A few chuckles, a few new words (for me at least), but basically I did not care enough about the characters to continue. This was a choice for my book group. Not something I would have selected on my own.
Mar 14, 2014 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
once you slow down and allow yourself to appreciate the writing and the singular vision of STW, you too will dig five stars out of your bag o' stars.
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NYRB Classics: Summer Will Show, by Sylvia Townsend Warner 1 8 Oct 30, 2013 07:42PM  
  • Mary Olivier, a Life
  • Devoted Ladies
  • Eustace and Hilda
  • Miss Mole
  • The Vet's Daughter
  • Great Granny Webster
  • The Outward Room
  • The Birds Fall Down
  • The World My Wilderness
  • Angel
  • Irretrievable
  • Anglo-Saxon Attitudes
  • Love's Work: A Reckoning with Life
  • Wish Her Safe at Home
  • In Hazard
  • Transit
  • Ride a Cockhorse
  • Cassandra at the Wedding
Sylvia Townsend Warner was born at Harrow on the Hill, the only child of George Townsend Warner and his wife Eleanora (Nora) Hudleston. Her father was a house-master at Harrow School and was, for many years, associated with the prestigious Harrow History Prize which was renamed the Townsend Warner History Prize in his honor, after his death in 1916. As a child, Sylvia seemingly enjoyed an idyllic ...more
More about Sylvia Townsend Warner...

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“Sitting here, and thus, she had attained to a state which she could never have desired, not even conceived. And being so unforeseen, so alien to her character and upbringing, her felicity had an absolute perfection; no comparison between the desired and the actual could tear holes in it, no ambition whisper, But this is not quite what you wanted, is it?” 4 likes
“Stronger than rage, astonishment, contempt, the pleasurable sense that at last she had slapped Frederick's face, the less pleasurable surmise that his slap back would be longer-lasting; stronger even than the desire to see Minna was her feeling that of all things, all people, she most at this moment wished to see Ingelbrecht, and the sturdy assurance that she would find in him everything that she expected. If she had gone up the stairs in the rue de la Carabine on her knees, she could not have ascended with a more zealotical faith that there would be healing at the top; and when he opened the door to her, enquiring politely if her errands had gone well she replied with enthusiasm, "Perfectly. My husband--it was he I went to see--has just threatened to cut me off with a penny."

"A lock-out," said Ingelbrecht. "Very natural. It is a symptom of capitalistic anxiety. I suppose he has always been afraid of you."

She nodded, and her lips curved in a grin of satisfaction.”
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