Namratha's Reviews > A Song for Summer

A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson
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Aug 10, 08

it was amazing
bookshelves: ya-lit, classics, eva-ibbotson-gems
Read in August, 2008

Ellen Carr is a refreshing heroine. Departing from the usual breed of go-getters, smart-talkers and hard-as-nails characters that populate today’s books, Ellen is warm, enchanting and the epitome of the ol worlde English Nanny (albeit in a glorified role). Raised by a family of strident suffragettes in the early 1940s, Ellen surprises everyone by showing a love for all things domestic. Her inspiration is her grandfather’s Austrian help/partner Henny who teaches the young Ellen how to make 'Apfel Strudel' and others things practical yet pretty.


After Henny’s death.....Ellen moves to Austria to take up the job as housemother in a progressive school called Hallendorf. Hallendorf is a school unlike any other…supposedly meant to give free reign to the bursting talent of prodigious children. Infact it’s more like a dumping grounds for wealthy parents, whose children are parceled off and promptly forgotten. And the soft-hearted Ellen takes everyone under her wing…from the weary headmaster and the insecure children to the distinctly weird staff and their idiosyncrasies.Another character who intrigues Ellen is the handsome Marek...the groundman cum fencing master cum hero-of-the-masses. Love inevitably blossoms, but it is shrouded by the looming threat of World War2.

And soon Ellen discovers that Marek is a man under disguise. He is Marcus von Altenburg, a world famous musician who has now devoted his life to helping an assortment of resistances smuggle Jews to safety. A noble cause but a path laden with danger and the threat of things going seriously long.

From the minty-fresh air of Austria to the decadence of Vienna to the smoke-filled depression of WW2.....A Song for Summer is a full-fledged historical romance. While the book could have easily veered into mushy sentimentalism, Eva Ibbotson’s classic humour, funnily-flawed characters and smooth transitions lift it to a whole new level. The pain-staking attention to details of places and events would please history-buffs, but for me it was about Ellen and Marek.

While Ellen appears to be to-good-to-be-true, you realize that it has to be just so. Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, you need a character who symbolizes hope and comfort. Marek, the unique combination of earthy woodsman and temperamental musician is the perfect foil for the practical Ellen.

Another memorable couple and a definite addition to all-time favorites.
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