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Summer's Lease

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  550 Ratings  ·  56 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
Jun 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
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
Feb 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 07, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italy, read-in-2015
"The villa near a small Tuscan town is everything the Pargeter family could want for a three-week stay -- complete with a pool, magnificent views, and 'the world's greatest small painting' nearby. But when the water supply fails and a neighbor dies suddenly, the idyll turns sour. And Molly Pargeter begins to wonder about their mysterious absentee landlord ...
I had rather gone offf John Mortimer after reading several Rumpole books. I always enjoyed the Rumpole series on tv, but the books just d
Jeanne Jenkins
Jul 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeanne by: Ashley Memory
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
Jul 11, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, though I found the beginning to be very slow. The prose was magnificent and once the plot sped up, I couldn't put it down. For the entirety of the book, I loathed Haverford's character. His pompous, free-loading, and at times cruel behavior, reminded me of someone I know and it really stuck a chord. I think this is indicative of Mortimer's ability to write a character well and thus appreciated the abhorrence I felt for Haverford Downs.
Jan 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Tim and Popie Stafford
Think of it as a lowbrow Room with a View. English family takes Tuscan villa for summer holiday, has adventures. There's a murder mystery, but the main thing is description of Tuscany, which is pretty good. Pleasant.
Webb Hubbell
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful Story!
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't quite live up to my expectations, but a good enough read.
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
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A enjoyable and fun novel to read, mainly for the politically incorrect old soak father of the main protagonist Molly, who is going on a holiday with her family to Italy and soon strange occurrences start to happen. There is plenty to have fun with here, communist priests, ageing counts and a murder mystery set amongst the background of Chianti region. Mortimer does a good job and even recreates the 1980's rather well.
Sep 15, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I rarely read books a second time but I've been wanting to read this one again for some time. It's a delightful read, full of eccentric characters, mysteries, odd goings-on and the inevitable frictions of a family forced to spend time together on holidays. The denouement is edgy and tense but still made me want to book a holiday in Italy pronto pronto. I enjoyed the book immensely, even second time around.
Mar 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Aug 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Elizabeth Ferry
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed this stand-alone novel. One of the advantages of working at a public library is that I get a chance to read titles that I would otherwise have missed. This came across the circ desk as a return and caught my eye. Written waaaay back in 1988. Interested in reading others by Mortimer now.
Cynthia Vengraitis
The story of a British family that rents an Italian villa for the summer seemed dated and not terribly interesting. There is the hint of a mystery, there are supposed to be eccentric characters, but I never felt I was truly enjoying it, and yes I generally love British humor. Or should I say humour?
Jan 08, 2011 rated it really liked it

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!

Teresa Rust
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. :)
Sarah Sammis
Apr 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: released, pc, read-in-2005
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.
David Lester
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ashley Memory
Jul 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
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.
Martyn F
Feb 24, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pleasant, easy and sometimes amusing read, set in Tuscany, with a bit of a mystery thrown in.
Mar 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
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.
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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...

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