Quaint and quirky….those are two good adjectives for this book. Though not as accomplished as Roffey’s later work (The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, 2009 and Archipelago, 2012) August Frost is quite good for a debut novel.
August Chalamin, the protagonist of the novel, is a shy awkward man in his 30s who works at a gourmet food delicatessen. Two events occur which cause him to begin reflecting on his childhood growing up in a commune with a promiscuous mother and a mysterious (and absent) father. The first of these events is when a former commune member moves into the neighborhood and insinuates himself into August’s life. The second thing that happens to August is quite bizarre - his body begins to change to mimic the seasons. He develops frost on his skin in winter, plants sprout from his body in spring, he looks like a parched desert in the summer, and he begins shedding hair and fingernails like trees losing leaves in autumn.
As August deals with these freakish body abnormalities, he is also searching for information about who his father really was, and falling in love, and watching his friends fall in love, and learning about the lives and secrets of the people in his neighborhood. August Frost is simply a slice of life novel, with the body/nature connection providing a light touch of magical realism while also being employed as a symbolic device of how August changes through the story.
The novel is well written and engaging but it never really wowed me to any extent. For those interested in discovering Roffey, I would suggest one of her other novels instead of this one. For those who are already fans, it’s a worthy read.