I’ve had a long time to think about it; I wish to God I could stop but sometimes, even now, it just happens: I go over and over exactly how it was that Helen came to die, and all that came before, and all that came after. About all the things I might have done, and all the things I might have not done; and all the things other people might have done and not done. Like Mitch, and Alison.
In 1960s Perth, teenager Nick meets three new friends who share his interest in music. Soon, guitarist Mitch has hooked up with one of the girls, Alison, and Nick is keen on her sister, Helen. He thinks she’s interested in him, too, though their relationship is slower to develop. The foursome form a folk group, and are soon popular on the local music scene. But things start to fall apart when Mitch decides to leave the group, and Helen gets called back to Melbourne. Although Nick and Alison join her there soon after, and have what seems to be a bliss-filled summer, tragedy is just around the corner.
Summer’s Gone is a touching, down to earth story of life in the 1960s. Shifting between the events leading up to and surrounding a death, and Nick’s revisitation of key locations many years later, the narrative is cleverly arranged so that the mystery of Helen’s death, revealed on page one, is only gradually made clearer. At the same time,many of the issues of the 1960s – including conscription, sexual liberation, feminism, societal change and worker’s rights – are explored in a way that avoids being issue-heavy. Nick is an entertaining narrator and as he criss-crosses the country, it is a pleasure to travel with him, even in dark times.
Summer’s Gone is an absorbing read.
Summer’s Gone, by Charles Hall
Margaret River Press, 2015
Available from good bookstores and online.