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Summer's Lease

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  443 ratings  ·  39 reviews
A woman takes her husband and children to the Italian home of another English family accompanied by her eccentric father. A sense of foreboding hangs over the holiday from the start as the house, as well as its absentee owners, exert their presence.
Paperback, 300 pages
Published July 1st 1989 by Penguin Books (first published June 10th 1985)
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Delightful. English people vacationing and living in Italy. Outrageous cast of characters. Peculiar goings on. Vanishing water. A murder!!

The BBC mini series is great, and includes a few scenes with Feodor Chaliapin Jr. as the old Prince, Tosti. It is not possible for me to convey his utterly wonderfully demented delivery of the spider speech, but here it is as it appears in the book:

'I was staying with Andrew Spratling at Porto Ercole,' the Prince piped up in a small, precise voice as though
I picked this book up at the library book sale, drawn by the fact that the setting is a small town in Tuscany. I didn't realize that the author, John Mortimer, is a popular British author whose books have been the source of some BBC productions. A family from England - Molly, Hugh, their three daughters and Molly's roguish 76-yr-old father - answer an advertisement and lease a house in Tuscany for three weeks in the summer. The mysterious owners of the house and several unexpected incidents piqu ...more
An enjoyable, if not a great one, this book suffers from an identity crisis. Is it a light novel of fluffy English manners, or is it a mystery? By trying to be both, it gets its signals crossed and neither aspect is done as well as it could be. I’ve enjoyed Mortimer’s Rumpole on TV, and very much liked his memoir, Voyage Round my Father. This falls short of those, but it was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
I usually follow a firm belief that you read the book before you see the movie, but I didn't know this was a book when I saw the movie. Both are great, especially if you appreciate British humor. A great mystery.
I can relate to the main character in some ways, so it was fun to read.
Martyn F
I have no idea how this book landed on my to-read list. I kept on for about 100 pages, then I gave up. I had the feeling the book still had not started, but I guess I was wrong.

I have no idea why you would like this book. It's all about a holiday, a bit of gossip and other boring stuff.
David Lester
For a light, pleasurable, intelligently written novel whose plot features paintings, sexual politics, class conflict, and the British on vacation in Italy, I recommend Summer's Lease. The Masterpiece Theatre/BBC film version is great too, if you can find it.
Andrew Bailey
It was a good 'one of those' type of novels. A little mystery, nothing too puzzling. The beauty of it is in the descriptions of the places. The atmosphere is silky smooth but the characters are a little bland and predictable for my taste.
I’m not a great fan of Rumpole or She Who Must Be Obeyed. But I was called by the plot summary: an English woman, married to a wavering lawyer husband and saddled with a father who just thinks and breathes sex (of the virtual variety mostly), two just adolescents and a three year old baby, leases a Tuscany villa for the holidays. Most of the reviewers were mad about the character of the Father but in fact I disliked him and loved good old Molly, not beautiful but with a great mind and a love of ...more
Recently I picked up a copy of "The Jane Austen Book Club," and was astonished to see blurbs on the jacket by writers I really like. Barbara Kingsolver! Amy Tan! Is something wrong with me? Why didn't I like it? But it was years ago, and I can't for the life of me remember. Something was odd about the narrative voice, but details elude me. I guess I have to read it again.

So, here I am about to make use of this tool to avert future wasteful rereading of not-favorite books.

As it happens, I would
Overall, the book was solid reading, though I found the end to be a bit anticlimactic. Why do so much work to find out what's going on only to leave it be?
3.8* started as a family summer vacation in italy, ended as a murder mystery. made into a masterpiece theatre mini-series. have to check it out.
Re-read this book which I read years ago - possibly when it first came out. It was as quirky as I remembered it. Good read.
fun easy read, but not as good as his rumpole books, I wonder if its because hes writing from the point of view of a women.
Jeanne Jenkins
I enjoyed reading this book. However, I did not like Molly's father Haverford. He was just a little to much 'in to himself' for my taste. And I tired of hearing of his 'rogering'. I did however like Molly. I too would have had the desire to find out about the mystery of the people that owned the home that they were staying in. It was a bit hard to read since I speak no Italian and somewhat confused by the English terminolgy. Some things I looked up and others I just skipped over in order to 'enj ...more
I don't know how anyone could rate this book with any more than one star. There is nothing in the book to like. In fact there's nothing in the book to dislike either. It's totally boring with undeveloped characters, the kind you don't care about at all. Who cares that Signor Fixit died? It also seems weird to me that a man penned this book, trying to write from the perspective of a frumpy middle-aged woman. He didn't do it well.
BORING. A complete waste of time.
I liked this one quite a bit, and definitely recommend Martin Jarvis' reading of the audiobook!

There's a fair amount of satire of the English expats of "Chianti-shire" (Tuscany), as well as of the locals, though some characters of each group came off as quite likable and sympathetic. The action moved so fast that it felt as though the family was there a lot longer than three weeks!
Set in a town in northen Italy, a group of friends meet and separate over weeks spent to escape the wet English summer. Secrets are revealed, relationships altered, and a search for a view of a special painting creates new bonds. Mortimer is well known for his Rumpole stories, but this shows a delicate observance of human relations that is unexpected.
Teresa Rust
Great summertime read. A dysfunctional English family goes on a three week holiday in Tuscany, Italy. Filled with intrigue, mystery, and some twists and turns.

This was made into a movie in the 1980's starring John Gielgud as the grandpa in the story!! You can rent it from Netflix. :)

I love Mortimer's witty style! In this book, part social comedy, and part mystery, Molly, the central character, "drags her amiably bickering family" to Tuscany. In the process, Molly unravels a mystery surrounding the ex-pat community there.Highly recommended!

Sarah Sammis
I enjoyed the book start to finish and the mystery bit at the end was a nice edition to an already funny parody of the typical travel memoir. I think my favorite character in the book was the prince. The accidental confrontation between him and Haverford made me laugh.
Ashley Memory
I have read this book countless times and I never cease to be amused. Mortimer is a master of the comedy of manners. One of the reviewers compares it to a glass of Spumante, sparkling and brisk. Perfect!
Ug. Snore. I tried and tried and gave up half way. It kept promising suspense and mystery and just ended up being boring. If you need a good book to put you to sleep this is a real winner.
Started well, interesting local characters mixing with English family renting Italian villa for summer with a mystery thrown in. Just didn't live up to expectations. Finished poorly.
Funny Funny Funny and a book I re-read when I need a laugh. And it's a mystery too! I like that everything isn't clear and that it is very English. Guess I like dry a lot...
Lex Bijlsma
Zwarte komedie, die zich afspeelt in een zonovergoten Toscaanse villa. Door de ironische toon komt de vakantiesfeer overtuigender naar voren dan de crimes passionels.
Decent British read - dry sense of humor, understated. Much preferred the author's Paradise Postponed novel over this one.
My latest airport book, which I suspect I disliked mostly because I disliked spending yet another weekend in an airport.
Wonder read. Great characters and compelling mystery in the most beautiful setting imaginable.
Chris Ziesler
Said by some, to be undoubtedly the greatest small novel in the world.
Not as good as, say, Paradise Postponed or the best of the Rumpole stories.
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John Clifford Mortimer is a novelist, playwright and former practising barrister. Among his many publications are several volumes of Rumpole stories and a trilogy of political novels, Paradise Postponed, Titmuss Regained and The Sound of Trumpets, featuring Leslie Titmuss - a character as brilliant as Rumpole.

John Mortimer received a knighthood for his services to the arts in 1998.

More about John Mortimer...
Rumpole of the Bailey The First Rumpole Omnibus Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders Rumpole Rests His Case Rumpole and the Reign of Terror

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