**spoiler alert** Last Days of Summer tells the story of Joey Margolis - a young boy growing up in Brooklyn in the 1940's. A boy, who rarely, if ever**spoiler alert** Last Days of Summer tells the story of Joey Margolis - a young boy growing up in Brooklyn in the 1940's. A boy, who rarely, if ever sees his father. Joey decides he's going to write (maybe harass would be a better word) Charlie Banks - the third baseman for the New York Giants. Charlie doesn't exactly welcome the attention (at first) but Joey is nothing if not persistent.
This is an epistolary novel. Told in the form of letters, transcripts, notes and school reports. I think this format has its pros and cons. On the one hand you get to see a very personal side of the characters that you may not otherwise have, but on the other there are things that you miss out on seeing because the book doesn't have a conventional narrative. For example I would have liked to experience the first meeting with Charlie firsthand rather than through interview, but we don't get to do that.
Whether you like the novel or not, will probably depend on your feelings about the character of Joey - I loved him. Charlie is not so enamoured of him at first:-
"You are beginning to make a mess out of my life."
Joey really gets under his skin - like a tick. I think that the point I started to fall in love with the book was on p.88 when Charlie sets some boundaries on their friendship. I especially liked rule number 9
"9. You will alawys remember that you are probably somebody very special. I do not know this for a fact yet..."
I like how these rules keep cropping up throughout the story, and get adapted as circumstances change.
The writing is beautiful. There are so many bits that I could just quote, because I want to share them. The friendship that develops between them and how they stand up for each other is just wonderful to read. I think Joey initially sees Charlie as something of a challenge but eventually they become friends. For Joey, Charlie becomes the father he doesn't have. However, America is about to be pulled into World War 2 - which of course we as readers know, but the characters don't. So there is a sense of time running out, history moves on, no matter what. And eventually it catches up with them - Joey's Japanese friend Craig is sent to an internment camp, Charlie enlists and there is a sense of seriousness that wasn't there before.
"Joey listen to me. Everybody gets handed a rotten deal sooner or later and your just getting it out of the way early."
If I had any problems with the story, it would be the baseball references. Being in the UK I don't really understand them. I have a vague understanding of how the game of baseball works but not enough to decipher the few commentaries and stats sheets. However, I don't think it's necessary to be a baseball afficionado to enjoy the story. It's the relationships between all the characters that make the story work.
I would hightly recommend this story. It's funny and sad and touching and heartbreaking. I've always been of the opinion that if a story can make you really laugh or cry then it's on another level, it has really touched you and that's a rare thing. ...more
**spoiler alert** I know this book is a favourite with a few people - one of the reasons I picked it up - but I had quite a few problems with it.
The g**spoiler alert** I know this book is a favourite with a few people - one of the reasons I picked it up - but I had quite a few problems with it.
The good stuff first. I liked how Rachel Haimowitz gets the reader completely into Daniel's head. She puts you right there with him at every single moment. You understand his confusion when he arrives late to Carl's penthouse, and doesn't know whether he's allowed to go into Carl's bedroom, will he be punished for going in or for not going in. This is the major plus of the story for me. It's also what makes the gang rape so difficult and upsetting to read - it made me cry. You're right there with Daniel as he loses the one aspect of himself that he'd protected, the decision on when to say yes or no.
I think the total focus on Daniel also contributes to how little we know the other characters, because of his position he is unable to make much of an effort to get to know them. He has to know his place.
Onto the problems I had. Now I think most of these can be traced back to the fact that the book at 124 pages isn't long enough (for me) to deal with the themes and worldbuilding here. If it had been three times, four times as long, I think we would have ended up with a much more rounded story and stronger worldbuilding. Now I don't know how the series is going to progress, it may be that each upcoming book will slot in and we essentially end up with a longer book in multiple parts. But that doesn't address the problems I have with the characters and worldbuilding in THIS particular story.
Worldbuilding, superficially strong, but I found the more I looked at it, it just wasn't working for me. I was quite happy with it up to a point. Carl reads The Washington Post, The New York Times, so this is a world like our own but NOT our own. It has a different history and at some point it became acceptable to keep slaves. But I feel like I've missed something somewhere.
Then Carl asks Daniel his opinion about Mugabe in Zimbabwe and I was thrown completely out of it. Because if Carl can comment on Mugabe and the problems in Zimbabwe - reference riots and massacres. Then as a reasonably intelligent human being why can't he see the hypocrisy in feeling able to comment on the policies of another country but not his own where gang rapes and torture are an acceptable means of dealing with people.
It's also then that I realised I didn't really understand how this world worked. Was the slave system only operating in America? Daniel mentions about wanting to run away to Scandinavia - how he'd tried to run away whilst in Denmark and how he dreams of flying away to Sweden. So presumably - at least in Scandinavia, if not Europe - there's no slave system.
If all the previous history still led to Mugabe being in power in Zimbabwe. What happened to the civil rights movement in America? I ended up feeling like the world the characters lived in, had no solidity to it.
I think if the world the characters inhabit doesn't feel real, then the characters lose believability as well. Why was Foster such a villain? Just because he can be? Presumably Carl has lived in this country all his life, why couldn't he appreciate what would happen to Daniel when he complained about his behaviour? He's a journalist with an interest in politics. How could he be so naive?
Finally, the ending, again I take problems with this back to the fact that the story is too short. The ending especially (for me) needed to take place over a much greater period of time. The gang rape and the torture which (no matter how disturbing they are*) are an incredibly powerful piece of writing, lose that impact, that sense that Daniel has totally lost any sense of self he might have had, because it is wrapped up so quickly and easily at the end. I don't believe in Daniel's recovery.
This was a flawed story for me. Some of the writing was amazing, getting us into Daniel's head and holding us there, was very well done. But it's the problems that have stayed with me.
* - I also take issue with Noble Romance's warning for the book - "M/M, forced oral and anal intercourse". I don't think this is really a strong enough warning. The one at GoodReads is better - "WARNING: This book contains potentially triggering subject matter, including a violent on-screen rape. Please take heed.)" ...more