The Last Summer of the Camperdowns: A Novel

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9780871403407: The Last Summer of the Camperdowns: A Novel
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Cosmopolitan's one of “The 22 Best Books of the Year For Women, by Women"
Washington Post Notable Fiction of 2013

Set on Cape Cod during one tumultuous summer, Elizabeth Kelly’s gothic family story will delight readers of The Family Fang and The Giant’s House.

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns, from the best-selling author of Apologize, Apologize!, introduces Riddle James Camperdown, the twelve-year-old daughter of the idealistic Camp and his manicured, razor-sharp wife, Greer. It’s 1972, and Riddle’s father is running for office from the family compound in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Between Camp’s desire to toughen her up and Greer’s demand for glamour, Riddle has her hands full juggling her eccentric parents. When she accidentally witnesses a crime close to home, her confusion and fear keep her silent. As the summer unfolds, the consequences of her silence multiply. Another mysterious and powerful family, the Devlins, slowly emerges as the keepers of astonishing secrets that could shatter the Camperdowns. As an old love triangle, bitter war wounds, and the struggle for status spiral out of control, Riddle can only watch, hoping for the courage to reveal the truth. The Last Summer of the Camperdowns is poised to become the summer’s uproarious and dramatic must-read.

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Review:

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2013: “Like my mother, I deplored all that bored me—unlike her, though, I absolved myself of any obligation to be entertaining. I might as well have been born with a pistol in my hand, firing furiously at the floor, ordering life to dance.” So twelve-year-old Riddle “Jimmy” Camperdown (named after Hoffa) slouches hostilely summerward, cultivating her role of family curmudgeon. It’s 1972. Riddle and her parents stave off boredom in their wind-whipped cliff-top estate on Cape Cod primarily by goading each other (and riding horses). Her father, Camp, relishes the thrill of working himself into a lather about the latest Vietnam atrocity. Greer, her glamorous actor mother--once the “Toast of Hollywood,” now on extended hiatus from stage and screen--simmers and smokes, perfecting lacerating one-liners. Camp remained “inexplicably in thrall to her sleek furies,” mostly about money and their lack. Their clashes get a nastier edge as Camp launches a campaign for a state House seat, and their dashing childhood chum Michael Devlin--who’d served with Camp in WWII as a sniper in Bastogne, and later jilted Greer at the altar--chooses that moment to return to town with two teenage sons and announces plans to make public incriminating details of Camp’s war service. Just as it’s dawning on Riddle that her family runs on secrets, she witnesses an act of shocking violence in a barn and--paralyzed by fear--descends into her own pit of secrecy, even when she realizes she’s the only one who knows why the younger Devlin boy is missing. Gleefully wielding the pyrotechnic wit she first flashed in her debut (Apologize, Apologize!), Elizabeth Kelly pushes the family dynamics of modern American aristocrats to near-absurd levels, throwing in a menacing stable hand, gorgeous gypsy horses that drive men mad, and a freaky, faceless doll to fine-tune the tension. In its final reckoning, what could have turned campy culminates with unexpectedly rich gravitas. --Mari Malcolm

About the Author:

Elizabeth Kelly is the best-selling author of The Last Summer of the Camperdowns (finalist for the New England Society Book Award) and Apologize, Apologize!. She lives in Merrickville, Ontario, with her husband, five dogs, and three cats.

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