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The Last Summer of the World

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  113 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
In the summer of 1918, with the Germans threatening Paris, Edward Steichen arrives in France to photograph the war for the American army. France is full of poignant memories: his early artistic successes, his marriage, the births of his two daughters. But as he takes up his first command, he learns that his wife Clara has filed suit against her friend, the painter Marion B ...more
Hardcover, 390 pages
Published June 18th 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Bill Blume
Jun 15, 2012 Bill Blume rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of things I love about moderating panels for James River Writers is that the prep work often takes me out of my comfort zone as a reader. Emily Mitchell's THE LAST SUMMER OF THE WORLD definitely falls into that category.

LAST SUMMER is a brutal work, and I mean that as a compliment. Many times in reading Mitchell's novel, I found myself forced to put the book down. She holds back nothing as she explores photographer/artist Edward Steichen's troubled and doomed marriage to musician Clara Smith
Steve Kettmann
Aug 28, 2008 Steve Kettmann rated it it was amazing
It was my pleasure to give this wonderful, graceful novel a rave review for Publishers Weekly, and I'm happy to report that the book fully retains its vivid presence in my imagination more than a year later. I especially liked Mitchell's descriptions of what World War I trench warfare looked like from a plane flying overhead to take aerial photographs, and of course was also glad to see a giant like Edward Steichen as a fully developed fictional character.
Jan 13, 2008 Valerie rated it it was ok
Nothing here really impressed upon me one way or the other. No character was really likable; if anything, most of the characters were unlikable and by page 400, I just wanted it to be over with, already.

But overall, the story moved along, I was able to finish and when I closed the back cover I easily moved onto the next book. Didn't hate it, didn't love it.
Feb 27, 2009 Gravity rated it it was amazing
The Last Summer of the World by Emily Mitchell
In the classic cult film The Hunger, Catherine Denueve, cool blond and coiffed, clicks past a pair of open French door windows to seduce Susan Sarandon with a glass of sherry. The windows are covered in long white curtains that undulate in and out of the slightly parted doors. If I knew something about film symbolism, I could probably explain why they left such an impression. Those same billowy curtains haunted Room with a View, another film I find
Feb 28, 2010 Robby rated it really liked it
The Last Summer of The World, in a way, is historical fiction. In a way, this book is a story of WWI and its effects on the human population. Most of all, though, this book was about love, family, and a man who never quite understood the boundaries between right and wrong.

The Last Summer of The World is about Edward Steichen, a photographer whose life has fallen apart. His story is told in vignettes of both the past and the present, candid accounts of the life he once had, the life those events
Mar 04, 2008 Brenna rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lauren
i really liked this book. it was a compelling and rich narrative with wonderful characters, and i loved the art historical element. the author presents a fictionalized account of an actual series of events that happened in the art photographer edward stiechen's life. other artists make appearances in the novel--stieglitz, rodin, and isadora duncan, to name a few. the book goes back and forth between edward's life before WWI and his life during and after it. because of this back-and-forth, the un ...more
Feb 22, 2008 Sundry rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Meridith
Recommended to Sundry by: Los Angeles Public Library
I very much enjoyed this book. I think I found it through a subject search on photography and maybe the time period in the LA Public Library database and it was a pleasant surprise.

It's a fictionalized account of the experiences of photographer Edward Steichen before, during and after World War I. I found it very interesting as a photographer and since I was in the Marne region of France and in Paris recently, so the setting was very vivid for me.

I don't think that you have to have these intere
Jan 20, 2009 Diane rated it liked it
I have been a student of photography and was well-aware of the work of Edward Steichen but completely unaware of his personal history. In that respect, I found this book both illuminating (for the factual details) and confounding (for the always blurry line between fact and fiction). I enjoyed the structure of the book which alternated between Steichen's real-life WWI experiences as an aerial photographer and his earlier life as an artist living in Paris and the French countryside. Unfortunately ...more
Sep 19, 2009 Sara rated it really liked it
I was fascinated by the story of the well-known photographer, Edward Steichen, and was drawn to this book because of the photography/Paris art world/real life characters elements of this book. I really enjoyed the book and thought that Emily Mitchell did a masterful job of taking on the challenge of chronicling Steichen's life and at the same time, adding her own admitted fictionalizing of his day-to-day life. He hung around with Rodin, Gertrude Stein and Alfred Stieglitz in the early 1900's. Em ...more
Jul 29, 2011 Marsha rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully crafted story based on the life of the early 20th century photographer Edward Steichen. Mitchell brings such nuance and depth to her characters that I couldn't help feeling that Mitchell had been there taking notes as they lived their lives. These are complicated people who navigate WWI and lives with social norms that were often a poor fit. They are flawed people and we are never asked to judge them harshly. Mitchell gives us beautifully detailed descriptions of their envi ...more
Jun 02, 2008 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
This was an interesting way of dealing with two connected storylines in two different time periods. Every chapter Emily Mitchell shifts back and forth between past and present. You'd think this would kill the momentum, but actually there's an element of suspense created as you wait for a chapter to find out what happened in the previous story line. Also both past and present are equally interesting, as are the perspectives of the different characters involved in the love triangle. I really liked ...more
Gail Marie
Mar 24, 2012 Gail Marie rated it liked it
I'm glad I read this book and will seek out photos of Edward Steichen, especially his later portraits for, I think, Vogue. However, I am not fond of the man himself and feel terrible for his first wife. The scenes set at the front lines were sparsely written and impactful. I appreciated the photographic descriptions of war, of their trenches and bodies, even pieces of bodies. I wanted to skim these bits but didn't, and because they were short they were accessible. Barely. And because of this I a ...more
Jan 19, 2012 Lyn rated it really liked it
Fascinating novel about photographer Edward Steichen and his life in pre-WW1 France; and then during the war years as an aerial photographer. It is skilfully written in the way she invokes our sympathy and understanding for all the characters, and the picture she draws of the (illusory) endless summer days that were swept away by the catastrophic events that shattered the optimism of the new century. But the characters themselves are already at war and their idealism proving fallible.
This editio
Feb 27, 2009 Heather rated it really liked it
I loved this book. It's based on the real life of a WWI-era American photographer living in France. I think the broad outline of the story is true and the details are what makes it fiction. It is beautifully written and the way the author shits between the past and present as well as the viewpoints of the various characters is seamless. It made me like like all of them, whereas if told from the perspective of only one of the characters I would have easily determined that I didn't like the other ...more
Mar 12, 2012 Pam rated it really liked it
Yummy writing!

I read this initially in 2012...but saw it on my husband's desk; forgetting I'd read it, commandeered it for a read until hitting a certain spot...hmmm familiar and finding it in my list on GoodReads but - it is SO GOOD it was just as enjoyable to reread it.

Comment in 2012 was the 'yummy writing'. Still found it so and further, wanted MORE of Steichen so I've checked out a biography...ha! All 800 pages will probably NOT be on my reading list but I do want to browse to see Ms. Mitc
Sep 18, 2007 Stacey rated it it was amazing
For full disclosure, I have to admit that I know the author. But even if I didn't, I would love this book. Partly because it showed me worlds I hadn't seen before (WWI from the air, early photography, the social world of Rodin and other Americans in Paris). But mostly because I can't remember the last contemporary novel I read with such complex characters. As soon as I would emotionally side with one, I'd get the other side of the story from another (great use of shifting close third person).
Sep 28, 2009 Christina rated it really liked it
This was one of those books that took me a while to get into and once there I wasn't sure what to think. It grew on me though and after finishing I discovered that I really did enjoy it more than I thought I had.

The author takes significant license with historical events which I usually don't like, but it worked for this novel and I appreciated the depth Emily Mitchell gave her characters and the fantastical look into their lives real or otherwise.
Mar 02, 2013 Barbara rated it really liked it
I've long admired Edward Steichen's photography which enhanced my impression of this novel based on his World War I experience as an aerial photographer for the American army. After reading this, I pulled out my photo books to view specific images referenced in this novel. I may have liked the book better had it been illustrated.
Feb 04, 2008 Patti rated it liked it
This book was an interesting back story of a photographer, Edward Steichen, that I have long admired. It was written well and provided interesting historical insights about life on the ground in a war, but I was ready for the book to be over a bit before it was. Somehow I am not even motivated to look up the photos referred to throughout the book. Maybe it was all just too sad.
Feb 05, 2014 zespri rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-1, paris
Another very interesting read. A novel based loosely on a period of the photographer, Edward Steichen's life. It includes his fascination with photography, his early marriage and family life, and then moves between this and his war work. As a photographer, he was involved with reconnaissance work, taking photographs from the air of the trenches and front lines.

Beautifully written.
Aug 09, 2008 Gina rated it it was amazing
Reading this book started my obsession with photographer Edward Steichen. And while it's a work of fiction, it pulls together many of the details of Steichen's personal life and his time spent photographing the front lines (while airborne)during WWI. I couldn't put this one down.
Cathy Day
I'm really enthralled by this book--it's vividly rendered and structurally intriguing. Even though it's told primarily through a male point of view, the overall sensibility shows great sympathy for the lives of artistically inclined women at the turn of the century. A truly transportive book.
Sep 10, 2007 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: recentlyread
I may just really like historical fiction that surmises what occurs in the lives of artists, especially in France. But, I found the book to be an enjoyable read with a nice back and forth between 2 time periods "present" and "past".
I thought this was a very good first novel. It is historical fiction about the photographer, Edward Steichen, who was in Europe in 1918 to film the war for the American army. It is a story of his marriage and his various liasons. The war scenes are particularly well done.
Aug 17, 2009 Toddy rated it liked it
Started slowly, but turned into an intriguing read. Goes back and forth between periods before and during WWI.Wonderful background on Steichen, Steiglitz, Rodin, Duncan and their long-suffering spouses. Are artists more amoral or immoral than other people? Is it more excusable?
Claire McMillan
Feb 28, 2012 Claire McMillan rated it really liked it
Mitchell brings Steichen to life! A fascinating look into the big issues - the mind of the artist, the nature of creativity, marriage, war, loss, betrayal, love, fighting. Just read it.
Mar 20, 2008 Paola rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Fictional account of Edward Steichen's years in France before and after WWI.
Mar 03, 2015 Linda rated it it was amazing
I loved this book!
Jan 11, 2009 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Based on the real life of Edward Steichen, a photographer in the early 1900's. His life and loves. Photos of WWI. Good story. Look his photos up on the Internet.
Oct 02, 2007 Katie rated it it was amazing
Admittedly, I know the author, so I'm biased -- So far, I'm thoroughly enjoying this book. The imagery is so beautiful and detailed that I'm reading slower than usual to take it all in carefully.
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Emily Mitchell's stories have been published in Harper’s, Ploughshares, New England Review, and elsewhere. She teaches at the University of Maryland and is the author of the novel The Last Summer of the World.
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